Monday, March 31, 2008


Someone used to live here
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

While driving my daughter to a playdate last week, she noticed that an apartment building across the street from one of the synagogues in town was being torn down. She gasped audibly when she first saw the scene, and asked why this kind of thing had to happen.

I paused for a bit before I answered. It's not as if this building was any great prize. It was the kind of run-down structure that you'd probably forget you'd seen mere seconds after passing it. Three storeys, brown, old and very much the kind of place you hoped you'd never live.

I resisted the urge to express my satisfaction that this corner might finally become home to something nicer. After all, people had lived there once. Perhaps folks who were new to this country, building their lives, hoping for a better future. All gone now, of course, their former homes now slowly being consumed by giant machines that didn't have much patience for sentiment.

We talked about how everything has a finite lifespan, how even buildings eventually wear out and have to be replaced, how this transition opens up opportunities for builders and regular folks alike. Five minutes later, we pulled into her friend's driveway, and she was happy with the outcome of our discussion.

As luck would have it, I had brought my camera along for the ride, so I offered to take pictures on the way home. To remember not just someone's home that would soon be a memory, but a moment when our daughter learned just a little more about impermanence and supposed progress. She happily nodded as she bounced out of the van, making me promise I'd show them to her when I came to pick her up.

Your turn: Please look into this photo and try to see the home that once was. What stories could it tell?

P.S. We returned the next day. The machines were busy chewing through what remained of the structure. By midweek, the entire thing was gone.

One more thing: We're still taking your best captions for this week's Caption This contest. Click here to open up a photographic Pandora's Box. It won't hurt. Really.


Andrea said...

Good for you for taking the time to think about the answer you gave your daughter before just blurting out that it was just an 'old, ugly' building! It's so nice when parents take opportunties like this to teach their kids something that they will probably remember forever!

And the - it looks almost like some of the pictures you see from poverty stricken countries...but I'm sure that there were many, many memories made in that building!

Carolyn said...

It could have been the 1st home to a number of children who had their 1st birthday there, cut their 1st teeth on the doorframes, received their 1st teddybear under their
1st Christmas tree...

Sounds like your daughter has inherited your empathy towards others :)

Jenny said...

I'm so impressed with this post and with the time you took to explain the situation to your daughter.

It's always sad to see a structure torn down. No fault to the machines, since it's their job, but it always seems so heartless with no thought to what used to be.

It's good to look into the future and the promise of progress in that neighborhood!

Dak-Ind said...

honestly, when i first saw the picture i thought of Oklahoma City.

so i found it kind of refreshing to think that perhaps it was just a run down building that will have a beautiful new one in its place, for new homes, new memories, and new arrivals.

Mike Wood said...

That the building at Kipps and Adelaide? I wouldn't say eyesore, but having been in them frequently at one point when I had a job going door to door, my first thought when seeing them torn down was that replacing them would be a good thing... your interpretation and explanation was much more eloquent. My second thought was that I would have loved to shoot some photos in there and was tempted more than once to hop the fence with model in tow. :)

Anonymous said...


I've often found myself wondering the same thing when I've traveled across the plains and seen dilapidated, abandoned farmsteads where undoubtedly families lived, reared children, etc. I sometimes think that it would be nice if we could anthrophomorphize those structures and listen to what they have to tell us.

And I wonder sometimes, silly though it may be, whether such buildings are "sad" because their usefulness has passed them by.