Giovanni's Room Bookstore

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Giovanni's Room in February 2014

Giovanni's Room Bookstore has been called the oldest gay bookstore in America and the "center of gay Philly".[1] Founded in 1973 in Philadelphia, Giovanni's Room Bookstore is named after James Baldwin's gay-themed novel Giovanni's Room. In April 2014 the store's owner of 38 years, Ed Hermance, announced his retirement plans, which included selling both the business and its two buildings.[2] The store closed on May 17, 2014.[1] A renter was found (Philly AIDS Thrift) and the bookstore, still named Giovanni's Room, is set to reopen before the end of fall 2014.[3][4]


Giovanni's Room Bookstore was long located on the corner of 12th and Pine Street in Philadelphia's gayborhood. The main building was built in 1820. The store was originally located in South Street and changed locations often in its first few years.[1]


Tom Wilson Weinberg, Dan Sherbo and Bern Boylethe opened Giovanni's Room in 1973 on the 200 block of South Street. The store was closed shortly after due to a homophobic landlord. Hermance and Arleen Oshan paid $500 for the business in 1976. The store then moved to 1426 Spruce Street but was eventually forced to close by the landlord. It was able to gather support from the gay and lesbian community and eventually moved to its last location on 12th and Pine.[1]

Market forces including the rise of hit gay bookstores especially hard. Sales began to decline about 1992 and the store eventually became unprofitable.[1]

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission unveiled a marker on Sunday, October 15, 2011, to commemorate the location of Giovanni’s Room, as it is the country's first LGBT bookstore.[5][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gillespie, Tyler. "The Last Day at Giovanni's Room, America's Oldest Gay Bookstore". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Thomas, Angela. "Giovanni's Room to close next month". Phila gay news. Retrieved 28 April 2014. >
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  5. ^ Schechner, Karen. "Giovanni’s Room Honored With Historical Marker". American Booksellers Association. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "William Penn’s Legacy, PHMC 2010-2011 Annual Report". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 

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Coordinates: 39°56′43″N 75°09′40″W / 39.9452°N 75.1612°W / 39.9452; -75.1612