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26 June 2006

The history of a house A week or so ago I signed a deal to buy a house a mile from High Park in Toronto (more specific than this I cannot be for security reasons, unfortunately), and I'll be moving in in November.[More:]

I've been wondering just when my house was built, and made an effort to find out from online searches. It turns out I shall have to go to the Toronto Archives in person to find that out, but I did find other stuff. I looked at photos of [my street] taken back in the twenties and even earlier, and read descriptions of plans to build bowling greens further down my street and of 1926 broadsheet advertisements of a one-cent sale taking place at the drugstore in the building right next to my house.

I'm now all fired up with enthusiasm to find out everything I can about my house and the street it's on and am thinking if I can get decent reproductions of some of these pictures, documents such as the building permit, and even things like that one-cent sale advertisement, they would make a neat-o collection to frame and hang in my living room or front hall.

This is just so many of my loves colliding and having an orgy — the house, history, Toronto, and art that I'm feeling overstimulated. Oooooh! I heart the Toronto Archives.
Oops. Was too excited to think of using the more inside function, apparently. Dear moderators, if you wish me to take up less of this particular real estate, please boot some of my text inside.
posted by Orange Swan 26 June | 08:39
That sounds awesome, Orange Swan. It would be great to have a gallery of photographs and documents about the history of your house and neighborhood. Although I look forward to moving into my brand new house, we will miss out on that kind of history.
posted by brainwidth 26 June | 08:52
I just got off the phone after talking to a friend who called me a nerd for being interested in the history of a house. He compared me to people who pride themselves on being distantly related to some obscure English family. Sigh.

However, I still think the search to find out more will be intriguing, and I shall take comfort in my little picture collection to get me through those times that I'm dealing with knob and tube wiring and paying thousands to have the porch pillers reinforced so it doesn't collapse in five or six years as the building inspector predicted it would.
posted by Orange Swan 26 June | 09:08
Thanks for the link to the Toronto Archives, now I've got something to do this morning.
posted by Capn 26 June | 09:20
Congratulations, Orange Swan! I've come to the conclusion that the world is separated into "old house" people (who dig being part of the history of a place) and "new house" people (who want everything shiny-new). I am definitely the former.

Our house is only about 50 years old, relatively new by old house standards, but still old enough to have lots of fireplaces and odd touches like a scrapple-maker in the barn. It used to be farmland, but the farmer decided to divvie up his land among his children and gave each of them a few acres on which to build their homes. This means that just about all of our neighbors are related to one another. Our house was built by the crazy uncle, much of it with his own two hands. You will not find another house like it and that's what we love about it.
posted by jrossi4r 26 June | 09:28
Sounds like a cool place to live. So do you make your own scrapple, jross? Or does it double as a granola bar maker or something;-)

I've never had the old house + enough emotional attachment = caring about the history equation before. My parents have lived in two houses during their marriage, both built by them (because my mother had to have EXACTLY the house she wanted). Since moving out on my own at 19 I've lived in a lot of crappy places — student housing first, then cheapo apartments with roommates, then neo-Gothic frightening roominghouse in Forest Hill. At present I live in a condo apartment building built in 1975. I've always been interested enough in history to ask when the houses I lived in were built, but nothing like this.
posted by Orange Swan 26 June | 09:43
oh dear
posted by Capn 26 June | 09:50
Hoo boy, Capn. I don't think that pic will be included in my gallery.
posted by Orange Swan 26 June | 09:56
I could make a KILLING setting up a scrapple stand there, Capn.

We've never actually used the scrapple maker. We just don't have enough spare pig parts laying around. Plus, I'm pretty sure that firing it up would burn down our barn. But it's nice to know that we could.

You'll have to post some pictures for us, Orange Swan.
posted by jrossi4r 26 June | 10:10
It's going to be dicey posting anything I dig up about the house, because it would provide identifying details about where I'm going to live. But I'll post anything I reasonably can.
posted by Orange Swan 26 June | 10:14
I was doing work in the basement of my 140-year-old house and found an ancient patent medicine bottle hidden behind a joist. It was Sarsaparilla tonic from the 1890s. The primary use was to treat syphilis. So know I know something about the previous owners...
posted by LarryC 26 June | 10:22
That's wicked cool, LarryC. My sister's house is about that old and they recently dug up what must have been the trash pit back then. All kinds of groovey old bottles and stuff.
posted by jrossi4r 26 June | 10:45
I used to live near High Park Blvd and Roncesvales in the late eighties (jeeze). That's a great area. You're right in the heart of little Poland.
posted by bonehead 26 June | 12:49
Oh, I envy you! I love old houses. I grew up in a historic home in New Jersey. It was owned by John Scott Harrison, the son of President William Henry Harrison (he of the shortest term ever) and the father of President Benjamin Harrison. Digging in the far back yard my friends and I found the old brick foundation of some out building, and a nearly disintegrated horse shoe. My aunt's house in Pennsylvania is almost 300 years old (parts of it, anyway). It has no central heat (wood burning stoves), a dirt floor in the basement, and on some of the walls were discovered hand stenciled wall paper. Enjoy it, and I think finding out more information is a wonderful idea.
posted by redvixen 26 June | 15:49
You're right in the heart of little Poland.

I've been to the Polish street. The winter before last I had a run of dating Polish men (five in all, I think), and the first one took me down there for some Polish cheesecake. (And no, that's not a euphemism.)
posted by Orange Swan 27 June | 08:17
I can't IRC at work || Bump: