For the Record: Penn Bookstore

For nearly 30 years, the Penn Bookstore was located where Huntsman Hall now stands.

Opened in September 1968, the building was intended to be the Bookstore’s temporary space after the original store, called the Houston Hall Store, moved out of the basement of Houston Hall. The historic building was undergoing much-needed renovations.

The rapidly constructed one-story brick temporary bookstore on 38th Street, renamed the University of Pennsylvania Bookstore, opened just in time for the fall semester to accommodate the rush of students picking up textbooks and other school supplies.

The store’s 15,000 square feet of selling space more than doubled the size of the Houston Hall Store. The spacious building, as well as its more pleasant, above-ground conditions, were a welcomed change for Bookstore staff and customers alike. The store had rows of cashiers to allow shoppers to check out quicker than in the past.

In an article in the May 26, 1969, issue of Publisher’s Weekly, Derek Davis, the Bookstore’s assistant director for books, boasted of the building’s 12-foot-high windows and the light that they allowed inside, saying, “The old store did not have a single point of entry for either light or fresh air.”

To draw in more customers from campus and the surrounding community, the Bookstore held promotional events featuring give-aways such as clothing, pizzas, and vouchers for dinner from local merchants. The grand prize at one event was a Yamaha motorcycle donated by a motorcycle sales outlet.

In 1998, the 38th Street store closed and was replaced with the current Bookstore at 36th and Walnut streets, which combines a full-service academic bookstore with the amenities of a Barnes & Noble superstore, selling everything from textbooks and Penn sweatshirts to dorm supplies.

The 38th Street location was eventually razed to make way for Huntsman Hall, which was completed in 2002.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.

bookstore slideshow