Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More House History

The archive group at Carleton University responded with some results. They found 14 items that reference our house. They sent me four photographs: two outside shots and two interior shots. One of the interior pictures is hard to tell if it was actually taken in our house as there isn't any recognizable features. The other was taken in our living room facing the opening to our dining room. Photographs courtesy of Archives and Research Collections, Carleton University Library, used with permission:

They also scanned and sent along 3 pages of text from the school calendar, and 7 pages from a book called 'Creating Carleton' (a history of Carleton). The calendar pages are essentially copies of each other and state the following (taken from the 1949-1950 calendar):

"Nearby is a three-storey student activities building [our house!] which provides accomodation for Student Association offices, "The Carleton" (student weekly newspaper), reading rooms, games rooms, darkrooms, radio broadcasting rooms, club rooms, and a student lounge."

The book 'Creating Carleton' has a picture of our house on one page and mentions that Carleton purchased the property in 1948 for $18,000 to provide space for the Students' Council, the Carleton, and the student clubs. The book also talks about some of the activities in our house, including how the Student Council held a 'Frosh Court' for dealing with infractions during frosh week, how an incident involving four students and drinking occurred on the property, and how some thought that student behaviour was getting out of hand.
There is also a cartoon from the school newspaper which depicts some students drinking and gambling on the floor of our current dining room. The cartoon was part of an editorial response to concerns over student behaviour. Published in The Carleton, 20 Jan., 1955, used with permission:

Our house feels a bit different to me now as I walk through the rooms. Knowing that it had such an interesting and rich history makes me think about the space more. The old darkroom lead sinks in the basement were scary on first sight, but now I can imagine some young newspaper photographer trying to develop photos down there.

No records of when the classrooms were built and what classes were taught there could be found in the archives. This opens the possibility that these structures were put in place by the subsequent owner. I wouldn't have thought this to be the case. He bought the property to use it for his electronics school, so why would he buy a property that was split up into student offfices and club rooms, which he would have to undo so he could have his family live there, and then on top of that build three classrooms? It seems more likely that Carleton added the classrooms after the student association was established here, maybe during their expansion in the mid-1950's, then quickly sold the property on to the subsequent owner once the new larger present-day campus became available in 1959. It would have been ideal for the next owner with 3 ready-made classrooms, and a large house for his family, close to other education facilities to draw in potential students.

The next steps when we have the time will be to try to visit the archives ourselves to go through some of the old photos and early editions of the student newspaper. A request was also made with the corporate archive group for the University. Their archivist is examining board meeting minutes, and other corporate documents from that time to find references of our house. This might help shed some light on the classrooms as building them would have required a large expenditure.

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