(Click to enlarge photos)
You've probably driven past it on the Lodge freeway and have seen it for years and told yourself that you should check it out someday. I'm talking about John King Books at 901 W Lafayette blvd, downtown. It is located in a four story building that used to be the Advance Glove factory. Who knew there was once a glove factory in Detroit? John King has been in the building since 1983. There are four packed floors of used books. They claim to have over a million used books! It is something truly unique, and is probably the largest used bookstore in the country. He also has two other smaller stores, one in the Wayne State area and one in Ferndale. With Boarders closing and the rise of E readers like the Kindle, it is something to be treasured. Something that I find amazing is that this four story building was actually moved 600 feet in 1949 to make way for the freeway. I would like to see the pictures of that!
I can spend hours in this place and always find some really cool stuff. Some of you may know that I am a amateur history buff (My other blog is: Detroit Gay History) One of the things that I love about this store is, you find cardboard boxes mixed in the shelves of books. You never know what you are going to find in these boxes, sometimes old magazines, sometimes old pamphlets from long ago defunct Detroit organizations or clubs. I always find myself saying “Oh wow!” The staff is very friendly and helpful. They have a decent sized LGBT section on the fourth floor. They even have a section of old high school yearbooks dating back to the 1920's, I love flipping through these old yearbooks, they are a unique time capsule.
John King also bought the building behind the main bookstore which was the old Otis Elevator building. In this building he houses his rare book collection. This is available for viewing by appointment only. However, the rare book collection is indexed and you can see what is in the collection on the John King website. I have not yet been to see the rare book collection because I am broke, but it would be fun to get a few people together and make an appointment to see it. In this collection he has more than just books, he has old posters, maps, metals, just a unique collection of really cool old stuff. How about a printed invitation to Coleman Young's birthday party at Cobo Hall in 1985? He has it, only $5.50! I think it is great that we have something so unique that I'm sure other cities don't have, at least not a big and as cool as this place. You owe it to yourself to check it out.