Founded in 1980, Bridge Street Books is Washington, D.C.’s second oldest bookshop in operation. (Kramer’s beat them by a hair.) The Georgetown staple is one I discovered while trekking around town in search of bookstores, and it proved to be one of the most memorable shops on my D.C. bookstore crawl.
As I approached from across the street on a damp, chilly afternoon, its aged brick façade and old windows conjured images of a musty shop with tall stacks of used books cared for by a gruff bookseller that may or may not be altogether welcoming. While I mean that as a high compliment – I love that kind of shop – what I found instead was something even more intriguing.
The narrow space consists of two levels of impressively curated new titles spanning the genres, but it manages to go further than many shops that specialize in new inventory. Going beyond the usual bestsellers and in-demand older works, I found a vast selection inside what is, relatively speaking, a smaller shop. Tall shelves and creative use of the floorspace create a cozy spot that can hold thousands of titles.
The shop was originally opened by the “gregarious and affable” Philip Levy and became what locals called a place of intense discussion, debate and conversation with a reputation of carrying books not found in other bookshops. Since I like to support every shop I enter, I keep a running list of potential purchases on my phone, and Bridge Street Books had in stock some I’ve never been able to find elsewhere. It also boasts one of the largest poetry sections I’ve come across to date.
Levy died unexpectedly in 2017, at which point the shop began the transition into a non-profit. If the bustling activity I encountered on a random weekday afternoon was any indication, Bridge Street Books remains as popular as ever. Between the impressive selection and the friendly interaction I had with the seller on duty, I can certainly see why.
Taking its moniker from the street’s original name, Bridge Street Books is located at 2814 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. Open daily.