May 20 2012
The story begins with a place. On the corner of Washington and School Streets in Boston, Anne Hutchinson, a woman who became known for her religious dissidence, first took up residence on the property that would become an important crossroads in American literary history. At this time there would have been around thirty booksellers in the immediate Boston area.
In October of 1711, however, a great fire broke out in Boston, consuming the Hutchinson home, the Town House, the Old Meeting House, and over one hundred shops and residences, including almost all of the bookstores. So immense was the extent of the devastation that only one bookstore was left standing.
The tale is not unlike the story we read today, of another bookstore closing, another publisher going under. Fewer and fewer of the bookstores that flourished in a city that was known as the publishing and bookselling center of America are still operating today. Sometimes it can feel that America’s book world is still under fire.
Happily, the story does not end there. In 1712 the building that still stands as the oldest brick structure in Boston was built on the site of Hutchinson’s home, and in 1829 a bookseller named Timothy Carter opened a bookshop there called the Old Corner Bookstore. From 1832-65 William Davis Ticknor and his younger partner, James T. Fields, ran a vibrant publishing house and bookstore on the corner, publishing the writers we now remember as the founders of American literature: Emerson. Thoreau. Hawthorne. Longfellow. Lowell. Boston booksellers were back in business.
A few more tenants, and many decades later, a new bookshop began operating on the site. The Globe Corner Bookstore was opened in 1982 under the guardianship of Pat and Harriet Carrier. While the Downtown Crossing branch closed in 1997, the Globe Corner thrived in other locations around the city, including its most recent home in Harvard Square. Just as the Carriers reached their 30th year of successful travel bookselling, however, they closed the store.
But the story continues. Over the past few months, the Carriers have been advising Booksmith as we expand our travel section and take over globecorner.com. Pat and Harriet have generously opened their inventory and years of experience in the travel industry to us, insuring that the expertise and knowledge cultivated at the Globe Corner can continue to thrive in Boston.
As one of the bookstores left standing, Booksmith is doing its best to meet the needs of our ever-burgeoning community of readers, to fill the void the others have left in a vital marketplace so essential to the growth of our intellectual culture. When Barnes and Noble down the street shut down, we expanded our magazine section. When Bob Slate stores closed, we implemented a Writer’s Corner, increasing our supply of journals and stationary and art supplies. Now as Boston loses its largest supplier of travel books and maps, Booksmith is proud to provide a new space for the literary tradition begun at the corner of Washington and School Streets to continue at the intersection of Beacon and Harvard.Read more: brookline booksmith, General, Globe Corner, James T. Fields, Literary Crossroads, News, Old Corner Bookstore