26 May 2013

Ancestral information NOW before it's too late

We all hear about interviewing the older generations of our family before they are gone. I have an additional task for your list of family history activities. Take pictures of the ancestral homes and businesses now. That's now as in NOW.

We don't know when the buildings might be destroyed by fire, floods, tornados, or by a wrecking ball. This afternoon I decided to drive past a couple places where my family had lived in the past. 1011 Portland Avenue in St. Paul looked just fine. This is where my maternal Grandmother Gertrude M. (Cook) Hanley lived for many years as a child.

But earlier I had driven up Marshall Avenue from the St. Paul Cathedral to take a look at 358 Marshall where the sisters of my maternal Great Grandfather John T. Cook had lived. Minnie, Ellen, and Catherine Cook had a nice home where members of the greater family were welcomed. I have written about this home several times. I have a faint memory of being in the home as a very young girl. My mother and grandmother told me about the many happy hours spent there.

As I drove west on Marshall I saw two fire engines with lights flashing. My heart sank and I hoped that the house wasn't on fire. It had been in less than ideal condition the last time I drove by there. Then I saw the fire engines were in front of homes in the lower address numbers. Whew!

A couple seconds later I was in the correct block and there was still shock. The house is gone and replaced by a big building. I had never stopped to take a picture of the home. I am kicking myself and feel sad about it. In its place is 370 Marshall. It was built in 2005. Had it really been that long since I drove past there?

I came home and did some online searching. 370 Marshall is a 68 unit upscale condominium building. I found one item on an older city council agenda:

Agenda of the St. Paul City Council
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

5. Letter from the Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection announcing a public hearing before the City Council on October 22, 2003, to consider the appeal of Real Estate Development Group to a decision of the Heritage Preservation Commission denying a demolition permit application to raze the house and garage at 358 Marshall Avenue in order to construct a six story 68-unit condominium building.


Take those pictures now or get someone to do it for you if the homes and businesses are not nearby. I will be taking many pictures of other homes and businesses in the coming months.


Shelley Bishop said...

Great advice, Paula! I wish I had taken a picture of the restaurant my Dad owned before it was demolished.

Susan Clark said...

Wise words. We learned this weekend that my husband's grandmother's house was torn down to make way for a lumber yard's warehouse. I shall soon be hunting through old photos to see if we have ANY photos of the old place.

Barb Gallagher said...

You may want to check on Google earth street view as it is a bit older -- also Zillow for home valuations is a little older view. You can at least copy those for posterity. Some towns take photos of homes for other municipal purposes and those could date back quite a while. Worth checking out!