|550 South Grand Avenue, in Downtown Los Angeles|
Leonard Bernstein, proprietor of Caravan Book Store, said at the time his parents started the business in 1954, the area consisted of numerous offices for rail and shipping lines along with a few airlines. The name, Caravan, was chosen to connote exotic travel, a nod to the Silk Road, and the treasures abound from other parts of the world. The store became a center for art and literature.
Esotouric - a fine article written by Kim Cooper, February 3, 2018
|Leonard and his daughter behind the sales counter|
|Leonard Bernstein with Darryl Holter, co-owner of Chevalier's Books|
|The scene Saturday included L.A. photographer Gary Leonard (with back to this camera)|
Victoria Bernal, co-founder of the Twitter feed @lahistory
Pictured here shielding a volume of Sanborn maps (hiding it from other customers, Victoria?)
|A gift of wildflowers for Leonard.|
(Photo courtesy V. Bernal)
Postscript: L.A. Times' award-winning writer Thomas Curwen filed his final story on March 2nd during Caravan's move-out day.
Below, Darryl Holter stopped by the empty storefront the same day, a day made even more somber by the morning rain showers.
|Darryl stopped by Caravan on his way to the historic Lebanon Street nearby|
History of Los Angeles Book Shops
The availability of books and other reading materials offered by a general merchandise store to the small population of Mexican Los Angeles is hinted at by a reference in William Rich Hutton's letter to his uncle, from Los Angeles, Calfa., July 14', 1849. Hutton, as assistant surveyor to Lieutenant Edward Ord, was in town awaiting the contract to survey the city as he stopped into Benjamin Wilson's store:
"A few days ago, as I was looking over books in Wilson['s sto]re, I saw one marked 'Frai Gerundio['s]' 'Teatro social,' He com[mences] his introduction by speaking of all sorts of ghosts and the [ones that?] appeared to him in particular; some of his articles were hea[ded] the same as in Padre Isla's, such as 'Casa de Locos' & some others, but on the title page it was mark[d] 'El Siglo XIX.' Do you know anything of such a book? It completely fooled me at first. It is in the same style as the real one, but 'muy moderna.'" [source: Glances at California 1847-1853, diaries and letters of William Rich Hutton, Surveyor (San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1942), p. 16]
Note: Benjamin Wilson, known as Don Benito, was the maternal grandfather to the World War II General George S. Patton, Jr.
Acquisition of stationery supplies was a challenge for Ord and Hutton: drawing paper needed to be obtained from San Diego; if the vessel Lise's came in, Hutton thought he might be able to find some India ink.
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Dearly departed bookstores and their stories are lovingly ensconced on a wonderful blog Bookstore Memories Blog written by Paul Hunt. One post Hollywood Boulevard Bookstore Follies Part 2 cites an Ernest Dawson essay profiling the early book vendors:
According to Dawson, one of the earliest book retailers may have been Samuel Hellman's stationery, book, dry goods and cigar shop in 1861. Samuel was related to several other Hellmans, early Jewish pioneers who forged into banking and merchandising.
Then there was the Jones Bookstore at 226 West First St., operated by Frederick D. Jones of new and second-hand books and stationery (listed in the 1891 L.A. city directory).
The Eclectic Book Store at Second & Main, was operated by James Wallen Smith, who stocked paper novels, scarce, valuable and used books, about 1892.
The city's oldest bookstore maintained a longevity none surpassed; it began in 1888 and closed in March, 1994. [Note: Currently, Pasadena's Vroman's Bookstore is going on 124 years.] Fowler Bros. had a succession of location changes, a whopping six locations:
The Department Store Book Section
The department stores sold books and employed experienced book buyers. Fowler Bros. aligned with the department stores to group advertise during the Christmas season or in the promotion of a book title. This is apparent from newspaper ads from the 1920s through the 1950s as sampled by this blogger - the stores included May's, Broadway, Robinson's, Bullock's; in later years other bookstores joined (Parker's, Little's, Brentano's, Campbell's, and Pickwick).
A concentration of book shops dotted West Sixth Street (between about Hill Street to Figueroa Street) from the 1920s, to the Row's decline by the 1980s. Several establishments were also located off the Row, at Grand Avenue and Hope Street.
* Jake Zeitlin *
* Parker's Book Store and Jones Book Store *
Charles Cullum Parker was known as the dean of the Los Angeles book trade. In a 1921 Publisher's Weekly announcement, his store at 220 South Broadway would move to the new Pacific Finance Building at 520 West Sixth St., with free parking in the basement. Thomas A. Neal wrote that Parker's was a reliable place to count on for a desired book title. Neal also mentioned that in the bowels of this store was where all the activity took place in filling the orders from the Los Angeles Public Library.
The same issue of Publisher's Weekly reported that Jones Book Store (mentioned earlier in this post) would move to a new building at 426 - 428 West Sixth St.
|Ad in 1922 publication "Automobile Row" by Autorow Publishing Co., L.A.|
(Image courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research)
* Arcadia Bookshop and the Argonaut *
Louis Epstein came to California in 1925, and the next year he left his Long Beach book shop and set up on Sixth Street, next door to his brother Ben's store, the Argonaut. Louis named the business Arcadia Bookshop. His time on Booksellers Row was brief, as he soon moved to Eighth Street, where there was a richer clientele. In 1938 he established Pickwick Books, Hollywood's first used book venue. [Update 7/5/2018: Interview of Louis Epstein, "The Way It Was: Fifty Years in the Southern California Book Trade," 1977, UCLA Library, Center for Oral History Research]
The Argonaut remained at 621 West Sixth St.. It was listed in the 1956 street directory, which helps to establish that this was one of the stores that Leonard Bernstein's parents, Morris and Lillian, would have been familiar with as they settled onto Booksellers Row.
* Bennett & Marshall *
This shop was also listed in the 1956 directory at 612 West Sixth St. and stayed along Booksellers Row until 1966.
In 1937 Robert Bennett was working for Norman Holmes who operated the Holmes Book Co. Richard D. Marshall began a 25-year partnership with Bennett in 1941. By 1966, they moved to 8214 Melrose as the solution to their outgrown business.
* The Abbey Book Shop *
Mentioned above in the Jack Smith piece on Zeitlin, this business was also listed in the 1956 directory at 629 W. Sixth St. and also showed up in the 1965 directory. Some indication of the store's age can be found on the web, where a reference dated it at the same address in 1938. Again, the Abbey would have been colleagues and competitors with the new kid on the block, the Caravan Book Store.
* Holmes Book Co. *
This operation was started in 1901 by Robert Holmes of San Francisco, who was the father of Norman Holmes. Norman took it over when the elder Holmes returned to San Francisco and ran it until 1952. The company was largely importers and dealers of rare items. The 1906 and 1926 city directories list multiple locations downtown: 333 So. Main, 740-742 So. Main, 128 & 620 So. Spring, and along the Booksellers Row at 812-814 West Sixth.
* Dawson's Book Shop *
Today it maintains an online presence, and its scope is not too different from Michael Dawson's forefathers for its offerings of rare books, first editions, early printing and fine bindings. Their time at Booksellers Row lasted from 1922 to 1952 at 627 South Grand Ave. A previous post covered the closure of the Larchmont building.
* Thomas Bros. Map Store *
At least as recent as 2011 one could visit the map store at 521 West Sixth Street. Not sure when it went away.
* Farewell My Book *
A useful little book to learn more about Booksellers Row is Thomas A. Neal's short memoir of career adventures in the retail and rare book trade (Farewell My Book, Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop: 1983). He provides first hand accounts of the shops along the Row beginning in 1921, and his friendships with bookmen like Jake Zeitlin, Robert Bennett, Louis Epstein, and the Dawson clan.
|Farewell My Book by Thomas A. Neal|
A Chance Encounter with Dutton's Books While On Jury Duty
While sitting in the jury assembly room last week, this blogger needed a flat writing surface to start researching for this post. Picked up a random copy of Los Angeles Magazine that turned out to be an ancient issue, January, 1995. Flipping through it, the page opened serendipitously to a piece on Dave Dutton and his North Hollywood store (which closed up in 2006):
Coverage of the one-year anniversary of the Northridge earthquake.
Dutton was asked how he coped with the mess at his store.
|A paper leaflet from 1999|
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And finally, here is a link to Los Angeles Area Book Stores - these are lists compiled by Evelyn C. Leeper from years ago - to show what businesses used to exist and those still standing.
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