239 Post (1921-1948)

The exterior of 239 Grant, ca 1921

The exterior of 239 Post, probably taken in October 1921 just after opening.

On 22 October 1921, after twelve years on Grant St, Elder moved his bookstore to 239 Post, across the street from where the 1898 store had been. The new store offered several advantages, including a larger sales areas and a gallery & lecture hall. As an added bonus, Elder was now directly across the street from Gump’s, a family-owned, one-of-a-kind store with an international reputation.

Elder still thought of himself as both a bookseller and an art dealer. The art objects were displayed primarily in the mezzanine and stairwell. And for the first time, cash registers are in plain sight: they had previously been carefully hidden, lest they detract from the carefully planned atmosphere.

The entrance to the main book room. Note the Maybeck chandelier from the 1906 store.

The entrance to the main book room. Note the Maybeck chandelier from the 1906 store.

As before, many furnishings were brought to the new store to maintain a sense of continuity: chandeliers and bookcases from the 1906 Van Ness store, and the gothic window screens from Maybeck’s 1909 store.

By all accounts, Elder made good use of his new gallery & lecture hall; over one hundred artists held exhibitions at the “Paul Elder Gallery,” and there were frequent readings by featured authors.

Stairway landing in the main book room, including a Maybeck gothic screen from the 1909 store.

Stairway landing in the main book room, including a Maybeck gothic screen from the 1909 store. To the right of the screen are two drawings by British cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather (1887-1959).

Presumably Elder was affected by the Great Depression as much as his customers, but appears to have weathered it well. Although he shut down the Tomoye Press in 1918, he continued to publish the occasional volume into the early 1930s.

Update 28 June 2018: I have positively identified the current Graff Diamonds at 237 Post as the former location of Elder’s bookstore at 239 Post. The clincher was the lamppost in front of the building, which also appears in a 1920s photograph of Elder’s shop.

The bargain alcove in the main book room, with another Maybeck chandelier (1906) and screen (1909)

The bargain alcove in the main book room, with another Maybeck chandelier (1906) and screen (1909)

The fine bindings area of the main book room

The fine bindings area of the main book room

The art room, on the mezzanine (the windows in back are directly over the front entrance)

The art room, on the mezzanine (the windows in back are directly over the front entrance)

The stationery department, downstairs. Note also the cigars in the glass case at bottom front.

The stationery department, downstairs. Note also the cigars in the glass cases in front of the cash register.

Modern fiction, downstairs across from stationery

Modern fiction, downstairs across from stationery

The art gallery and lecture hall

The art gallery and lecture hall

The former Elder bookshop in its 2003 incarnation as a Bulgari store.

The former Elder bookshop in its 2003 incarnation as a Bulgari store.

The former Elder bookshop (now numbered 237 Post), is today a Graff Diamonds store.

The former Elder bookshop (now numbered 237 Post), is today a Graff Diamonds store.

251 Post as it appears today.

I used to think this building at 251 Post was Elder’s former store, but I was mistaken.

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