A haven for bookworms in a historic barn


Local historians believe that the yellow barn was built between 1873 and 1888. David Benthal

There’s a certain magic about a used book store: the scent of old pages, getting lost between the shelves of well-loved books or enthralled by a unique cover.

Unless you frequent Riverhead Free Library on Court Street, you may not know that just next door, in a nearly 150-year-old barn, is a treasure trove of used books.

The historic Yellow Barn is brimming with gently used books, neatly organized into different sections from classics to cookbooks, history, fiction, romance, science fiction and everything in between. Best of all? Each title will run you between 25 cents and $5.

As a kid, I remember visiting the barn and feeling like I hit the jackpot, finding a set of Nancy Drew mysteries or the latest installment of Harry Potter. On a recent trip, I scored two new releases that had been lingering on my TBR list — Colson Whitehead’s “Harlem Shuffle” and Lucy Foley’s “The Paris Apartment” — plus two others for a whopping total of $10.50.

For years, a dedicated group of volunteers has helped keep the Yellow Barn open and preserved. Volunteers are always sorting through new arrivals that come in regularly via donation boxes and drop-offs. Proceeds from book sales help support restoration projects.

The barn was originally built as a carriage house on the property of the Perkins family, a historically prominent Riverhead family, whose homestead occupied the site of the current library campus.

The barn is filled with gently used books, neatly organized into different sections. (Credit: David Benthal)

Local history and reference librarian Jim Provencher estimates the barn was built between 1873 and 1888.

The entire property was donated to the library by Alice, the Perkins’ last surviving child, upon her death in the 1950s. The barn was saved and first restored in the 1960s, when it was used for one-act plays, gallery space and book sales.

After a small fire, it was restored again in 1995 and achieved town landmark status in 2017. The barn will be an eventual stop on a self-guided tour of historic landmarks that’s currently being curated by the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Committee.

Last year, the barn reopened after an extensive renovation project to upgrade electricity, install a dehumidifier, refinish the floors and address code issues.

Fundraising is still underway for the second phase of the project, an exterior renovation that will include lead paint remediation and a fresh coat of the iconic pale yellow shade.

The Yellow Barn is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 am to 2 pm from April through October. It will also be open on the following Saturdays: Sept. 17 and Oct. 29 from 10 am to 2 pm

To learn more about the Yellow Barn and restoration projects, visit riverheadlibrary.org/yellow-barn.

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