There may be no bookstore in the country with a more mythical aura than the Co-op, located for 51 years across the street from the University of Chicago's main quad in the basement of a theological seminary. Just getting in was a grandiose process: you walked into the vaulted stone entranceway then clopped down the Willy Wonka stairs into a basement overfull with books whose titles you were often proud to just recognize. The space was all pipes and bookcases, a pretty unfriendly place for a browser that perfectly embodied the vague sense of sacrifice a literary person feels about the life of the mind. Co-op manager Jack Cella has explained "it was an easy, very easy decision" to move, and while members like Barack Obama, Saul Bellow, and me
are might be happy for them to be out of the objectively cramped and stuffy basement, we don't have to pretend that just a little bit of magic is gone. For now, anyway—the new space sounds like it'll be pretty cool, actually.
Find a few photos of the old location after the jump, and excuse the low-lit, poorly framed photography as the work of a grieving amateur. For more and better pictures, visit the Seminary Co-op Documentary Project.