The Montague Bookmill is one of the most magical bookstores in New England. Tucked away in the small town of Montague in Western Massachusetts, a historic mill building on the banks of the Saw Mill River houses this hidden gem. As an avid book lover, I was eager to make the two-hour drive from Boston to discover this dream destination with the motto “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.”
History of the Montague Bookmill
Once known as Stone’s Gristmill, the building began as a grain mill for local families in the 1830s. Later, it served as a water powered drill press in the 1940s, which assembled the molds to make machines that churned out Louisville Slugger baseball bats, among other things. Ultimately, the building was converted into a used bookstore in 1987. The current owner, screenwriter Susan Shilliday, fell in love with the place after countless visits from California with her daughter, who attended the nearby Hampshire College.
Great care has been taken to ensure that the Montague Bookmill retains original, architectural details. Worn hardwood floors whisper the secrets of their past when treaded upon. Wide wooden beams spanning the ceiling add to its charm. Expansive, multi-paned windows offer unparalleled views of the Sawmill River below.
Visiting the Montague Bookmill
Today, the beloved Montague Bookmill offers a welcome respite for readers from all walks of life. It proudly serves as a gathering place to a diverse community: local students seeking a quiet spot to study, aspiring writers hoping to draw inspiration from the enchanting ambiance, families from surrounding suburbs in search of a weekend distraction, and travelers who have journeyed from far and wide to experience first hand the storied folklore and quiet allure of this one-of-a-kind place.
The delightful smell of dusty pages will greet you immediately upon entering the store. You could spend hours happily getting lost among the labyrinth of rooms. You’ll encounter books around every corner, piled high in every hidden nook. It’s not hard to discover a new favorite read among the shelves that have started to sag from the weight of titles, “everything from Austen and anarchy, to Zola and zoology.” But in case you need a little direction, Shilliday and her staff are more than happy to make a suggestion.
Once you’ve filled your arms with a pile of promising reads, it’s time to curl up in a quiet corner. It’s difficult to choose a favorite among the many cozy nooks. But a pretty safe bet is an overstuffed armchair near the large, sun-drenched windows. If your book doesn’t capture your imagination, the view of the rushing rapids below will.
Beyond Books at the Montague Bookmill
When hunger pains start to interrupt your reverie, it’s time to stop in the adjoining Lady Killigrew Cafe and Pub for a bite to eat. If you’re lucky, snag one of the coveted tables near the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the rushing waterfall.
If you’re looking for a heartier, more upscale meal, head downstairs to the award-winning restaurant The Alvah Stone. In warmer weather, you can dine outside on the patio and enjoy the soothing soundtrack of the Saw Mill River.
With plenty of nearby attractions, it’s the perfect day trip destination. In the same complex, other historic buildings house Turn It Up Music and Movies and Sawmill River Arts Gallery. Historic downtown Deerfield and the nearby Yankee Candle Village is just 15 minute drive away. Read more about how to get more out of your visit in my Perfect Massachusetts Day Trip itinerary.
Ready to discover the Montague Book Mill for yourself? Visit the Montague Book Mill website for store hours and special events.