Buffalo busts and lots of books on display at O'Gara and Wilson's, Hyde Park's historic bookstore

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by Lauren Makholm

Nestled comfortably between a restaurant and a hair salon on 57th street is a bookstore well worth a visit. Though I've frequented its neighbor, The Florian Restaurant, many times as a UChicago undergrad, I somehow never made it into O'Gara & Wilson Antiquarian Booksellers. On nice days a discounted bookshelf lingers outside the door, offering little-known theoretical texts for only a few dollars. Unfortunately, perusing those titles is as close as I came to ever entering this eccentric bookshop.

As soon as I entered I felt transported into a different era. The odd collection of books, magazines, and odd cultural artifacts was reminiscent of a forgotten room of Citizen Kane's Xanadu. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the enormous buffalo bust hanging from the ceiling at the center of the room. Then, my attention shifted to the plush dinosaur ambling along the shelf devoted to the history of Chicago.  Below it, a child-sized rocking chair lay seemingly forgotten and unused.

O'Gara and Wilson's, much like the University of Chicago, seemed chiefly concerned with the theoretical and philosophical. Literary Criticism filled the left hand side of the store, while the right raced from continent to continent, covering every people and culture. The haphazardly stocked and cramped Fiction section masked hidden treasures, such as a box set of old snoopy cartoons, or the extensive collection of previously loved sci-fi thrillers. My favorite find, in the African-American section, was a 1983 yearbook from Jean Baptiste Point DuSable High School. The smiling faces of the seniors were as intriguing as their undeniably 80s fashion senses.
Chicago's oldest continuously operating bookstore, O'Gara and Wilson's lies a little to the East of 57th Street and Blackstone Avenue. The bookstore also operates a blog, at http://ogarawilsonbooksellers.blogspot.com/ They are open Monday - Friday 11:00-7:00; Saturday 11:00-8:00; and Sunday 12:00-6:00.

Lauren Makholm is a fourth-year in the College and a contributing blogger for the Blog that Works.



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