“This is not new stuff, it’s actually old fashioned: The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker used to build their buildings in downtown and live upstairs and work right there,” - Monte Anderson in an interview.
In the Old East Village neighbourhood of London, Ontario, you'll find dozens of homes with placards on them.
When I first saw these from a passenger seat window in the car, I thought that they were signs for home occupations - as in, Joe the Carpenter lives here with his workshop. The thought of a neighborhood full of small business owners and tradespeople occupying 100-year-old live-work buildings was so exciting to me that I went back a couple days later and walked the neighborhood. A local couple kindly filled me in: these signs represent the original inhabitant of each home and the year built. I love the idea and wonder how many people have walked through the neighborhood imagining their way back in time. This area is just south of the tracks, which explains the railway employers and the boundaries of the neighborhood.
The revelation here for me was that brief window of wonder where I was mistaken. For a moment there, I pictured a contemporary neighborhood in which people work and proudly display their names and livelihoods on the door. It's not what I'd call revolutionary, but in 2016, that seemed like a completely novel and magnetic idea to me. I needed to go back. The discovery that this was in fact a reflection of the past only made me more curious. With so many home offices, I'd wager there are plenty of people working in all of our neighbourhoods. I found myself wanting a complementary set of signs - who lives there today and what are they proud of? Why does the history of their home and neighborhood matter to them personally? I wanted to know the story behind every person who put up a sign and behind these homes that have been maintained for over 100 years.
Speaking of working in the neighborhood
Back home, I was connected to one such character - a gentleman who is hoping to be the next owner of a corner store in our neighborhood which sells organic food. He would like to introduce cooking classes, healthy take-out meals, and a small café. Since this operation is located in a primarily residential area, there are some challenges to making that happen. Those challenges gave us an excuse to meet and call on the help of other neighbors. Every new acquaintance, project, or aspiration helps me put up another mental placard in my neighborhood. Lawrence, Local Grocer - 2016.