Prairie Avenue Farewell


The store, now on Wabash Avenue in Chicago, takes its name from an earlier location in the Prairie Avenue Historic District.
Courtesy Prairie Avenue Bookshop

Prairie Avenue Bookshop, one of the stars in Chicago’s architectural universe, will close at the end of the summer unless a buyer steps forward. The shop, the largest architecture bookstore in the United States, has been a resource for architects and the public since it opened in the mid-1970s, and is known for its extensive backlist and vast selection.

Marilyn Hasbrouck, who owns the store along with her husband Wilbert, said that changes in the bookselling market have taken a toll, including competition from online retailers like Amazon and big-box stores like Barnes & Noble.  “Amazon has a clout that is just unimaginable. Their discounts are larger than our costs,” she told AN. The recession, however, has had an even more acute impact. “Everyone knows this is a terrible time for architects,” she said. “People have less money to spend.”

With a color scheme inspired by architecture of the Chicago and Prairie schools, the 9,000-square-foot interior has plenty of room to linger.
Courtesy Prairie Avenue Bookshop 

More like a library than a commercial bookstore, Prairie Avenue’s interior invites long visits. “We wanted visitors to have an architectural experience,” she said. Wilbert Hasbrouck, an architect, designed the multi-tiered store, which includes originals and reproductions of furniture by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Mies van der Rohe, Samuel Marx, and other noted designers.

Hasbrouck said she and her husband are in talks with a couple of potential buyers, but she is not optimistic about the outcome. Without a buyer, the store will close its door on August 31.

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