The Montague Bookmill looms large in my memory, just as it looms large over the Sawmill River. I have been frequenting this space since I was a young kid, coming here for browsing with my dad during the day, and now and then for a concert. Once, Dar Williams dedicated my very favorite song as a child (“The Babysitter’s Here”) to myself and my sister as we snoozed in our parents’ laps. Suffice it to say, this place is special.
On a recent drive up to Vermont, I took my boyfriend to experience the Bookmill. While he’s not much of a reader, he is a builder, and he loved the architecture of the place. The Bookmill was once a working mill, as evidenced by the metal poles shooting to the ceiling here and there. It was originally built in 1842, and was converted into a bookstore 25 years ago, in 1987.
The store specializes in the academic, but you can find a good fiction book if that’s what you’re looking for. My favorite room is at the very top, a little nook of art books. There are two comfy chairs, a steady stream of light, and generally, absolute silence. On this visit, I splurged on a book of Diane Arbus prints I’d long been coveting.
When I was in high school, I’d sometimes drive out to the Bookmill to do some studying in the sunlight from the giant windows facing the river. Now, there is the Lady Killigrew Cafe attached, offering small bites, coffee, wine and beer. My man and I shared a Warm Brown Rice Salad and Peanut-Ginger Udon Noodles, the two most filling looking appetizers. Both were delicious, and we washed them down with well-brewed black coffees (perhaps from local roaster Dean’s Beans?).
On our way out, coffees and new (used) book in hand, we stopped in at Turn It Up!, a local chain of used record stores that now has a location at the Bookmill site. We browsed but didn’t buy, and continued our drive north. I felt I had properly initiated my love to one of the many wonders of the Pioneer Valley; after all, if you don’t get the Bookmill, then you don’t get the Valley.
The Bookmill also houses a restaurant these days, called The Night Kitchen, which my mom says is pretty good (but you can never trust that woman!) but we had neither time nor appetite to check it out. There are two art studios/galleries there, as well, which looked nice but were closed. I once bought a beautiful ceramic plate from one during a summer sale many moons ago, and it still serves as the spoon rest on my stove to this day.
All in all, the Montague Bookmill is a Valley landmark. While a bit out of the way (its motto being “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find”), it’s well worth the trip. It offers books and eats in one of the prettiest spots Western Massachusetts has to offer. If you’re not persuaded by the lovely wooden floors, long stretches of book stacks, and gorgeous views of the river, you’re not human.