Holmes Book Company

An unremarkable location at best, the upper stories of this building stand empty while the ground floor is rented to the neighboring fabric shop; however, to the right person, this building represents a terrible loss to Oakland’s history. Long-gone, but preserved in the memories of Oakland bibliophiles and ghost hunters alike: the Holmes bookstore went out of business in 1995 after standing for 71 years as a center of knowledge, local history, and supernaturalism. In 2015, the bookstore is as ghostly as its primary inhabitant: the building remains, a large, imposing facade of 1920s architecture, but there is nothing else left of Holmes or its ghost on the modern 14th Street. The windows of the upper stories, which once bustled with customers buying books and historians chasing down stories, are empty and deserted; the graffiti and sale/lease sign stands as evidence to its degradation from a beloved local intellectual gathering spot to silent, unmarked shell, meaningless except to those who know its history. Even the book company’s website has disappeared, leaving a trail of broken links and disappointed hopes from former customers wishing to rediscover the bookstore of their youth.

The ghost of the man that haunted the store, frightening customers and employees alike with his disembodied footsteps, and thrown books, has disappeared along with the store. Perhaps he deserted the building when the history room closed, the loss of all those volumes of Californian authors and stories that the ghost might have known during his life drawing him to another location where he could feel more connected to local history. Perhaps he faded into nothingness when the crowds of historians and bibliophiles stopped believing in him and the sign proclaiming that anyone who spotted the ghost would receive a free book was taken down. And perhaps he is still there, walking the empty upper stories with no more books to throw and no one to hear his footsteps and know to be afraid; who can say for sure if he is gone or not?

Certainly, feeling of unease that customers reported feeling while browsing the Holmes bookshelves alone certainly seems to have lingered in this location. The location is melancholy and strange: is that the ghost’s presence, or merely the wistfulness of a building that has lost its purpose?

Street Address:

274 14th Street, Oakland [map]

Cite this Page:

Savannah Stelzer, “Holmes Book Company,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 12, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/30.

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