The Last Day at Giovanni’s Room, America’s Oldest Gay Bookstore

Ed Hermance store owner, Giovanni's room

Across the street from Philadelphia bookstore Giovanni’s Room two men kiss. Double-decker tour buses pass by the shop’s location on the corner of 12th and Pine Street. A poster to re-elect Brian Sims, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state legislator, looks out from the store window. Giovanni’s Room takes up two floors of a house built in 1820, just a few blocks down from Pennsylvania Hospital, and, as of May 17th, it closed, probably for good.

Holding hands, a straight couple stops near the store’s outside wall to read a Blue Historical Marker citing Giovanni’s Room as a “refuge” for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Founded in 1973, the shop is known as the oldest gay bookstore in America. On its final day, just weeks before a federal court struck down Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban, the front door was adorned with a different kind of marker, this one announcing, “50% off everything – this is our last day. Thanks for all the years of love and support, XOXO Giovanni’s Room.”

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