Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekend Journey: Trans Allegheny Book Store

Saturday was a cold, rainy day. Larry planned to split wood all day, but the rain took care of those plans. I had no real plans at all. While enjoying our usual Saturday morning breakfast with friends at the Downtowner, someone mentioned "bookstore." That reminded me: I have wanted for years to visit Trans Allegheny Books in Parkersburg, WV, just 50 miles north of my home. Why I haven't been there before I really don't know, but after our visit to the store on Saturday, I know I will be returning as often as I can.

The store is housed in a historic Carnegie building. (Click here to see a short video that takes you through the store and tells a little of its history). It's massive, ornate and full of twists and turns, fireplaces, intriguing staircases, fancy woodwork and obvious artisan work in every room.

Oh, did I mention the store is supposed to be haunted? If you're so inclined, you can book a ghost tour. While I'm always interested in ghost stories, Saturday I was mainly interested in finding some good old books to add to my collection.

The two staircases are visible as soon as you enter the store.

The spiral staircase is worth the trip by itself--intricate ironwork and a brass handrail create a work of art in the middle of the store. I could not take this photo because I got too dizzy, so a friend snapped it for me.

Looking up the spiral stairs from down below. Did I mention I have vertigo? It seriously kicked in when I looked up those steps, but I was determined to go up anyway. If you have vertigo, you know that going up isn't so bad--coming down is a nightmare. I get terribly dizzy and lose my balance; it's so weird.

I found three good books on the upper levels, and that meant only one hand coming down. I could not do it. For a moment it seemed I would have to sit down and inch down the stairs that way. Then I hit on another idea--I put the books on one of the steps, went down three steps, reached back to get the books, moved them down a few more steps, and on all the way down the stairs. It was time-consuming but it worked and I saved my dignity!

One of the surprises in the store is the glass floors. Another challenge for someone with vertigo, they were still fascinating to me. I mean, walk on glass? Who would think it? I suppose the idea was that glass floors allowed more light in the stacks below. The glass is about 3/4" thick.

A stained glass window in the building gleams on the upper floors.

Why the locked door? What does the sign say?

Ahhhhh! So that's where they keep them!

The range of materials for sale is just astonishing--there are over 500,000 volumes from which to choose. I loved this one about hedgehogs. Especially the "special chapter" on understanding hedgehogs! (I didn't buy it, though--I'm not planning on a hedgehog pet right now.)

One of the two bookstore cats in residence.

The staircase were supposedly most of the ghostly sightings occur. Of all the pictures I took in the bookstore, only this one was blurry. Coincidence? This was also the only place orbs appeared in my pictures. You can see one just at the top of the frame. There are more in other shots that I have not included here. Do orbs really have any meaning? Who knows. I'm just sayin' they showed up only in the staricase photos.

Our little friend shows off the stunning end post on the balustrade. The marble post, though cracked and showing hard use, was a beautiful rich gold, set in panels to form the post.

Lunch was at the Third Street Deli. I didn't even know the place existed, but it apparently was a train station at one time. The food was delicious. I opted for dessert instead of lunch; the Bailey's Cheese Cake and a fruit cup with good fresh coffee were superb. Larry pronounced his Reuben one of the best he's ever had.
We spent a little time in the old downtown section, visiting a superb yarn shop. I don't knit. I knew how years ago, but I let it go because I had no time for it, and I developed problems with my thumbs. ( Andrea stopped by with some yarn and needles. She bought yarn and needles at the shop yesterday to make socks; today she has me knitting again! More on that later this week--if indeed I can really get going again.)

Home again in pouring rain that had let up only for brief intervals all day. It was a good day to spend browsing books and hanging out with friends. The evening was spent with the books we'd bought (my pocket was $100 lighter!) and with granddaughters Hannah and Haley who came to spend the night.
All in all, a very good, relaxing and interesting day.


City Mouse said...

That is a really gorgeous building! The staircases are magnificent. I'm sure the "letting the light in" thing about the glass floors is absolutely right. In New York we still have some buildings left that have glass set in the sidewalk in front of the stores, to let light into the cellar, which extends underneath.

Granny Sue said...

I didn't know that, Mouse. I've never seen glas used for flooring before. It's a very sensible idea when you think about it. This floor has been in place for over 100 years, so obviously it isn't fragile as you might think.

Patty said...

Oh my what a beautiful place. I would love to spend an entire day just looking at the books. I am sure I know about the ghost stories (I think they have a web-cam to try and catch them) but I did not know about the glass floors. I am so glad you did this post. It was a lot of fun.

Matthew Burns said...

I foresee a day trip in my near future.

Oh, and you don't have to want a hedgehog to read a book about caring for hedgehogs. Or at least I don't. Yes, I am weird, I know, but how else can I add to Matthew's Fountain of Useless Knowledge?

What were the prices like for the books there? Normal for a bookstore? Any used book section?


Jenny said...

That is a fun place to browse. My husband was just saying the other day we ought to go there again. Guess we'll have to plan a trip soon.

Tiger Lady said...

You were in my neck of the woods. At least the 'neck of the woods' I grew up in. I remember mom taking me to the bookstore. I loved it. Not only was it beautiful inside but I got to pick books out. And the smell of old books, sparks memories of walking down the Trans Allegheny aisles. I love the smell of an old book.

And the Third Street Deli - what is there not to love. :D

Granny Sue said...

Almost all the books are used, Matthew. Prices are about average for used books. I checked what I'd paid when I got home, and found that most were about what I'd pay to buy them online, esp with shipping. One was a a little high, and two were worth double what I paid--but of course they weren't sold! So all in all, I think I got good value--and even better, I got books that were valuable to me. I mean, who would not want to read a book about the social impact and history of the potato? or a collection of Scottish stories, a collection of world stories (both out of copyright so if I find one story I love I can tell it); not to mention a copy of the Blennerhassett: A Romance which I did not own. And then we got a nice stack of new WV Civil War books for Larry. There was more I'd like to have bought, but I reached my limit moneywise and had to put things back :-(

Granny Sue said...

Yes, we were, Jaime. I wanted to go to the library in Parkersburg too to see the mural painted by Rachel but we ran out of time. So we have to go back!

Maybe sometime we should take James and Michaela there. I bet they'd love it. Hannah was in an uproar that she missed it.

Granny Sue said...

Welcome, Jenny! You must not be too far away if you know about this book store. I'll be stopping by your blog soon.

Matthew Burns said...

Wow, Culture and History of the Potato??? And when are you going to offer books for sale again? That books sounds fascinating!! Also, the Scottish stories, mmmmmmm.

Okay, now we're definitely heading up there to the bookstore very soon!!!


Tiger Lady said...

I think they would love it! Not to mention its been perhaps 12-15 years since I last visited. Wow! I'm old enough now to put that many years in a sentence. Don't know how I feel about that.

Tiger Lady said...

Ya know what - we are all going to be in P-burg April 18th. So, if we can't manage before then - then maybe after or before Tommy's weight lifting event, we can.

Janet, said...

I've always wanted to stop there. I've seen it quite often when we're in Parkersburg. I love those old majestic buildings and...I love books!

Granny Sue said...

Maybe it's a field trip the Wordsmiths need to make, Janet. We could go there and to Borders! And maybe the library, or out to Blennerhassett Island, or some other historic place in the area. Food for the mind, you know.

solsticedreamer said...

what an adventure, that bookshop would be a dream destination for me, i can get lost for hours in bookshops and the more interesting the better! although the glass floor...i am scared of hights and even that would set me off!

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