The year was 1829. Andrew Jackson had just been elected to the White House as the seventh president of the United States. The country’s population was just over 12 million, and this population was only spread over the 24 states that existed at the time.
In Gambier, Ohio, Kenyon College, a small private liberal arts school in central Ohio, had just recently opened to the public. A small bookstore came along shortly after the school opened its doors to provide course materials to students. Today, the Kenyon College Bookstore is considered the oldest continuously-operating college textbook store in the U.S., according to Publishers Weekly. It is also considered the third-oldest bookstore in the nation to still be selling books of any kind.
The idea for the store was originally perpetuated in an Aug. 3, 1825 letter written by Bishop Philander Chase, the founder of the religious school. In the letter, Chase outlined his reasons for opening the bookstore. One of the main reasons was that he felt students were unprepared for their coursework because many did not have access to what he called “school-books.” He called for donations from the community and promised individuals who donated money that they would benefit from the bookstore and school in some way. It took some time and effort, but the store eventually opened in 1829.
Nearly 200 years later, the store now sits at 106 Gaskin Avenue in the heart of the Kenyon College campus. It carries all of the required and recommended textbooks and course materials for the school’s 1,600 students. You will also find lots of fiction and nonfiction titles, trade books, and other items such as clothing, gifts, souvenirs, greeting cards, and stationery. Plus you can purchase school supplies like notebooks, binders, and folders. The store also serves as the primary social center of campus for students to gather and study in groups. There are comfortable armchairs available for customers to sit, read, and relax for as long as they wish. There is a convenience store area of the bookstore as well that sells food and drink items.
While bookstores continue to close their doors in record numbers, the Kenyon College Bookstore remains as a rare relic in the state of Ohio and the entire country. If you have the opportunity to attend Kenyon College, you will be able to tell all of your friends that you are shopping at an historic bookstore where college students from generations gone by purchased their textbooks.