When thinking of historical houses, we usually imagine well-preserved old mansions where important people lived. But throughout our inner-city neighbourhoods are homes with histories that haven’t been uncovered yet.
All it takes is one interested person to start the process, said Wesley Andreas, who first started researching his own home when he moved to Spruce Avenue with his husband in 2012.
“There were three houses on the block that were the same, and I thought that was interesting,” Andreas said. “I looked into it and found out that all three of those houses were owned by people with the same last name, and I did more research and found out they were the Upright brothers, who owned Upright Brothers Tinsmiths, and then they went into doing furnaces and air conditioning. Their office was where the Nina Haggerty is now.”
On June 14, Spruce Avenue Community League is offering a free workshop about researching historical houses, with Andreas leading the workshop. This workshop is part of Spruce Avenue’s skill-sharing workshop series that began in December with a class on upcycled Christmas decorations, followed by another on making no-sew rugs. It’s also part of the Spruce Avenue history project, motivated by the league’s 65th anniversary and the quickly disappearing information on the area. Andreas said very little documentation exists from the pre-settlement era, before the Hudson’s Bay Company set up Spruce Avenue as a reserve.
“Spruce Avenue is one of the newer neighbourhoods in the area; most of the houses date from the late ‘40s to the early ‘60s. Not a lot has been documented, and there were a lot of older residents who grew up and lived here, sometimes since when the house was built, and they’re moving on or moving out.”
He said he hopes residents will research the histories of their old houses, which will eventually be shared on lawn or window signs. The workshop will take participants through the process, using the oldest house in Spruce Avenue as the example. He stresses that you don’t need to have an academic background in history. This workshop aims to de-mystify the historical research process.
“I want to show people how much they can find out on their laptop or smartphone. People think they have to dig through dusty papers somewhere, but it’s actually available online. Once you find one piece of information, you can start looking up who lived in your house and what they did, where did they live before, when did they come to Edmonton, and who else moved in.”
He continued: “I think it’s good to have skills and pass skills around, and I think this is an important skill to have, especially in this neighbourhood with a lot of older houses. It’s a way to have a bit more of a personal connection with the house they live in and appreciate the social history of their house.”
The workshop is geared toward Spruce Avenue, but is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
To register for the workshop, go to eventbrite.com/e/research-the-history-of-your-heritage-home-tickets-33783014907?aff=es2
Header Image: Many of our neighbourhood’s homes have histories. | Stanley Marcinkowski
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