History...

Nothing really about design (though connected on a tangent), but wondering if there are any others out there who enjoy history and the ID-like obsession with historical research.

For a while know I’ve been trying to research the history of my once industrial loft building. I’ve either completely lost it, or found a new passion, not sure which.

It all started innocently just trying to find some old photos of the building before it was turned into lofts.

From there I got immersed in the local archives and on the web. I must have spent at least 300+ hours so far…

What I’ve been able to uncover is pretty interesting. While I’m sure nobody cares about my building, just check the type of cool stuff you can uncover with some time at the archives and online doing research-

  1. Got everything from the genealogy of the guy who built it and started the company (going back to his father who came here on a ship from Ireland in 1853 incl the ships name and manifest, census scans from the 1800’s, and i’ve located the guys headstone in a local cemetery and took pics). Also tracked the following 3 generations and plan to try to make contact with his great great grandson.

  2. Originally it was a refrigerator company, going back to around 1890s. Found scans of the original patents he had that date to 1886. I’ve got scans of the city directory showing the company listed at this address, and a mention from a national archive article that it was the largest refrigerator company at one time in canada. Tracked the company to being sold to another guy, moved to Owen Sound, have a scan of a letterhead from that company dated in the 30’s mentioning the patent. Found that company then sometime moved back to Toronto and actually still exists. Don’t think the current owners even know the history, though the 1886 patent is mentioned on their website. I’ve actually even found Industrial Design patents from the company in Owen Sound for refrigerators going back to around 1917. I think it’s crazy that they actually even used the term industrial design to relate to the look of an object way back then!

  3. After that I’ve found it was a Talking Machine company and found references to it in a few books and photos of some of the machines online.

  4. I can trace the street and concession back to the mid 1700’s when it was just farmland. Got maps showing the street and buildings on it going back to 1994 and up to the 20’s and earlier when it was as it was now.

  5. Got prints of the original building permits first from 1905 and later in 1913 that are for the very building I’m now sitting in. still working on getting the drawings that went with the permits.

  6. Got full prints of the tax assessment records for the building and lot going back to 1880’s showing how much the lot/bldg was worth, who owned it, etc.

…who says the OCD of designers can’t be put to other uses!

R

R,

You are not alone. I have become obsessed with old war artifacts. I think it started about 3 years ago when my grandfather passed and left me with an abundance of things that he brought back from Germany in WWII. I have a lot of stuff ranging from newspaper with articles about the war, to letters that he wrote home talking about his family farm, to a Nazi flag that he ripped off a tank and his whole platoon that he was in charge of singed it, but I have to say the coolest thing that I think he brought back was these two swords.

The story that he always told me was that he was in Bastone Germany and needed to get out of the cold. I think you all know, but this was Battle of the Bulge and was one of the worst and nastiest battles in WWII, but was also one of the coldest. They took shelter in an abandon house where mostly everything had been destroyed, but while searching the house for food and supplies he found these swords. He said they were hidden under the bed and wrapped up in a blanket. He always laughed saying that he got warmth and a memento to send back home. These swords used to hang over a mantle my entire childhood until my grandma gave them to me after he died. Ever sense then I have always had a fascination with WWII and just recently it has expanded to almost all historic wars.

I have done a bit of research on them and have found out that the sword on the Top is a WW1 M-89 Garde Jäger Infantry Degen w/o Scabbard. It was probably owned by a lutentaunt in the German army and was mostly used as a dress sword (I believe). I don’t really know how much it is worth and don’t really care because I would never sell it, but I would like to find out more about it. It has a royal marking on the handle and I have read a bit about it, but know one really explains it in detail.

The sword on the bottom in a regular Infantry sword of the same era WW1. This one is not as rare, but my guess is that the same person owned them both and as he moves up in rank he got a new sword.

Like I said earlier this is only part of my collection as I have a few Confederate flags from the civil war and a whole bunch of memorabilia from WW2. My biggest issue is that I do not who to go to, to help me learn more about these things. Who to talk to, to figure out if it is real or fake. Like I have 3 confederate flags that I know are really really old, all real fabric, some look really early machine stitched and I do not know if they a pre or post war. One is like the confederate flag we all know, but the other two are other flags of the confederacy. If any of you know the answer of how to find out this info that would be great.

i did something similar, though not as thorough. i lived in a charlotte, nc for a while before here. my home was new, but there were homes in the area that dated back to the 1700s. i researched the area and found a rather bitter revolutionary war battle took place a short walk from my front door. the park i enjoyed that was around the corner was once a huge tobacco and cotton plantation. there were a few civil war guerilla skirmishes around my neighborhood too.

i went to an old church near the house and walked around the graveyard. headstones dating back to the 1700s with some soldiers and officers in the revolutionary and civil wars. it was really fascinationg to me, being a northerner.

Cool stuff R!

Repurposed lofts are the coolest buildings around… like the resto-mod Mustangs of architecture.

Our office is in a repurposed factory building or warehouse of some sort, the lobby is basically a gallery of old images and write-ups on what used to be there. I always glanced at the images but never took much notice of what the building actually was, maybe now I will… There are still parts of the building that no tenants have moved into yet so it still looks like it did 100 years ago, it is very cool to walk around the empty top floor.

I’m with you guys too… it’s really interesting to think about all the people that walked through the same building you are spending time in now - your imagination can really dive into it! Very cool that your really researching your building R

I lived for a bit in Durham NC which used to be a huge tobacco center, and they were turning the tobacco warehouses into lofts… I swear I think you could still smell the tobacco in there the good presmoked tobbacco smells mind you. There were civil war battlefields and legends of pirate tunnels in my hometown Wilmington too…

right now I live in San Francisco and probably 30-50% of the buildings in some areas survived through the 1906 earthquake / fire. There pictures everywhere of buildings in wreckage beside homes that weren’t destroyed and if you visit those same streets you can still see the old buildings. I had this pictures printed out large format for my office in the mission… I think the story is that a photographer sent up a balloon with a camera to capture everything. It was great to take a break and gaze at the picture imagining what that must have been like. (below is a link to the free high-res pic if anybody wants)

man that stuff is COOL. I did the same thing in our old apartment (we were trying to write a horror movie screenplay at the time…!) & found all sorts of cool stuff out… a cemetary buried under the kids playground, an old hanging spot where there was a gallows, an orphanage burned down in the 1800’s next door and all the kids died… there was no shortage of awesome material. Its fascinating to imagine the real people whose boots wore down the same cobblestones yours now are, I LOVE this stuff!

That just reminds me of the staircases in the fine arts building at CMU (and I’m sure other old schools) where you can see a significant wear pattern in the two ‘lanes’ of traffic up and down. It really does make you feel like a part of something bigger.