Boarded-up early 1900s house at Trafalgar Road and Derry Road retains echoes of bygone days

Jaan Pill photo

I stopped at this house, at the southeast corner of Trafalgar Road and Derry Road, while driving from Milton to Oakville, on my way to Toronto from Stratford.

Given that it’s a boarded-up heritage house, with a sign on it that suggests it was built in 1905, it has occurred to me that many cliches abound, in our collective imagination, regarding abandoned houses. I’m also aware that we as human beings get sentimental, or consciously chose not to get sentimental, about all manner of things.

Jaan Pill photo

At times I’ve come across websites that celebrate visual imagery associated with abandoned buildings in places like Detroit, Michigan, or in other places around the world. At times I’ve also come across situations where people get sentimental, or pointedly refuse to get sentimental, about things in life that are lost or destroyed.

The sight of the building brings to mind a previous post entitled:

Curated Decay (2017) argues that things are worth preserving, whereas some things can’t be preserved; better by far to watch them rot

Jaan Pill photo

The house in question looks to be in a state where it is being preserved, in a manner of speaking. That is, it has been boarded up and there’s a sign in place, indicating that if there’s a need to call some entity connected to the property, a phone number is available. If any site visitor knows details about the house, please let us know. Who knows: The house may yet have a future, as a repurposed building serving some new and novel function.

I’m reminded of the homestead of Colonel Samuel Smith, in the neighbourhood of Long Branch in South Etobicoke where we used to live. As I’ve noted at a post about a presentation made in 2011 at the Long Branch Library, for many years the homestead was a farm out in the middle of the countryside. Then, one day it dawned upon the occupants, of the farm, that a city had grown up all around it.

View from near house looking west toward Trafalgar Road. Jaan Pill photo

Whoever last lived at the house at Trafalgar Road and Derry Road has or have been gone for a long time. There are other houses from the same era, that are still occupied, still well looked after, in farmland along Trafalgar Road as you head toward Oakville. Possibly the location close to a busy intersection played a role in abandonment of this building.

In Stratford, where we live, you can find several neighbourhoods whose well-kept houses date from the same era, as the era of the house along Trafalgar Road. The Stratford houses, as with similar neighbourhoods across Southwestern Ontario, remain occupied and in good shape. In the summertime, it’s a delight to just wander up and down the streets, as visitors are wont to do, marvelling at the houses and their gardens. A pronounced absence of heavy traffic and noise is also a typical feature of such settings. Instead of roar of traffic, what you hear is birds singing, dogs barking, and people talking.

Local history, in a city such as Stratford, has given rise to an economic profile, which has encouraged preservation and upkeep of heritage houses, in quiet settings with extensive tree canopies. Such a profile would tend to be absent, or at any rate of a different nature, for a lone house at a busy intersection in the countryside.

View from house looking east toward farmers’ fields on horizon. Jaan Pill photo

Farmers’ fields

The corner of Trafalgar Road and Derry Road has farmers’ fields stretching off in all directions, as I recall. The role of farmers’ fields in history of urban development brings to mind two previous posts:

Toronto and Montreal wiped out their farmsteads

Farmers’ fields north of Montreal is where the City of Laval was built

The latter post deals with institutionalized corruption as it relates to a municipality north of Montreal among other places. The topic of corruption brings to mind another previous post, entitled, “History and Social Theory (2005) by Peter Burke and Two Cheers for Anarchism (2012) by James C. Scott warrant a close read,” in which I refer to studies by James C. Scott including:

Comparative Political Corruption (1972)

A partial description (in the author’s own words, which end at mid-sentence) at Google Scholar reads:

The perspective of this book is that corruption, like violence, must be understood as a regular, repetitive, integral part of the operation of most political systems. In practice, this simply means that an analysis of who in a society gets what, when, where, and how that relies exclusively upon an examination of those political acts open to public view would seldom provide an accurate picture of political reality. Recurring acts of violence and corruption are thus more successfully analyzed as normal channels of political activity than as cases of deviant pathology requiring incarceration and/or moral instruction for the perpetrator (s). Just as social banditry and piracy must be viewed as integral parts of many agrarian and maritime economies, so, for example, must vote-buying and “rake-offs” be seen as an integral part of United States urban politics at the turn of the twentieth century. Far from being pathological, patterns of corruption and violence may actually represent channels of political demands without which formal societal arrangements could scarcely survive.

In keeping with this perspective, I have consistently tried to show how patterns of access and exclusion in the formal political apparatus help determine which groups will most likely resort to corruption or violence.

Since corruption is a violation of certain rules, the amount and nature of corruption is, in part, determined by those rules. If the rules permit large campaign contributions, they often simply institutionalize a transaction between wealth and power that occurs illegally under a more restrictive set of rules. Given the importance of the existing set of rules to any examination of corruption, I have …

[End]

Update

The topic of abandoned buildings brings to mind a May 28, 2019 Guardian article entitled: “Italy’s new ruins: heritage sites being lost to neglect and looting.”

An excerpt reads:

“It started as a hobby,” Limongelli said. “These are places that have a certain allure, and telling their stories using photography was also a way to draw attention to their abandonment. Many people have begun following us and posting on our page their own explorations of Italy’s abandoned treasures. Often it was not a question of buildings or churches; sometimes it was entire ghost towns.”

The Italian national institute of statistics has counted nearly 6,000 ghost towns in Italy, many of which are medieval villages that succumbed to earthquakes or landslides. Some continue to attract visitors and tourists, despite being covered in vegetation. Others have ended up on eBay.

In 2012, the 25 homes comprising the abandoned medieval village of Patraricca, located at the source of the Arno river, were auctioned off with a €2.5m opening bid.

[End]

5 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Wonderful to know, William. Would you be interested in writing a post for my website about the house and memories associated with it?

    The house has a story but even more interesting is the house in interaction with people who built it, and the story of which families lived there and what led to the closing of it. Any information would be of interest as would photos or scans of documents.

    A lot of people have read the post. I’m so pleased I stopped to have a look and take photos one day.

    Reply
    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      I don’t have any details about the story related to the house. I’m hoping that evidence may be shared by site visitors that will enable us to know such details. So far, all we have is what I’ve posted to date after spending some time observing the house and the surrounding property.

      Reply

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