Giovanni's Room, the oldest and very best gay and lesbian bookstore in the country, was founded in 1973. Paralleling the growth of Philadelphia's "out" community and the expansion of publishing in its subject areas, the store has doubled three times from its beginning on South Street to its present two buildings (one a double trinity from the 1820s, the other a mom-and-pop store & house from the 1880s) on the corner of South 12th and Pine Streets.
Giovanni's Room is the traditional place from which to begin your visit to gay and lesbian Philadelphia. Its comfortable atmosphere in the middle of Center City, its maps, guides, and free advice anticipate a traveler's needs. You are sure to see books you have never seen before too. Giovanni's Room is special to Philadelphia and a comfortable place to start your visit to this beautiful, old city.
With 7,000 titles on the shelves and a data base of more than 48,000 titles in our specialties, Giovanni's Room stocks thousands more lesbian and gay books than the biggest superstore. The store's window displays create a street presence for LGBTers that's rare in any city. Crossing the store's threshold has had an extraordinary symbolic significance for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people coming out. Once inside, those people are greeted by an experienced, knowledgeable, and particularly friendly staff.
Similarly the store has special benefit for out-of-town visitors, people interested in the full range of gay and lesbian literature. More gay and lesbian lovers have met at Giovanni's Room than at any other area store. If you can get a staff member of the store to kiss you, then you will be in the direct succession of Walt Whitman's kiss, which flows from Walt to Edward Carpenter to E.M. Forster to Allen Ginsberg to Bern Boyle, one of the founders of Giovanni's Room.
The Pa. Historical and Museum Commission's marker, unveiled on Sunday, October 15, 2011.
After 41 years of serving the LGBT community in Philadelphia, the store closed on May 17, 2014. Soon after, it was announced that Philly AIDS Thrift signed a two-year agreement to become the proprietor of Giovanni's Room. The new venture which is called PhillyAIDSThrift@Giovanni's Room will continue to sell LGBTQ books--both new and used--as well as clothing, bric a brac, housewares and art.