Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old East Village Commerical Corridor

This past winter semester I was busy with the War of 1812 smartphone app and interactive exhibit design projects, both of which I discussed at length on this blog.  For the public history program I had to choose a third course to fullfill my requirements.  The program is pretty flexible with electives, and many of my classmates took courses outside the history department such as "Principles in Applied Archeology" or "Land Claims and Primary Historical Research."  After exploring some of my options - both within and outside of the history department - I couldn't decide which course to take, nothing had really captured my attention.  That's when I started to look into developing my own course with an independent study.

The previous semester I had done some mapping using ArcGIS and enjoyed it more than I had anticipated.  I looked into taking a GIS course in the Geography departments, but I had some inside information that because of a change in TAs from the previous year it might not have as much of a historical bent as in the past.  So I decided to approach a couple of people I knew in the Geography department (see, it's all about knowing the right people...) about being an instructor for an independent study.  I asked the rest of the Public History crew if they were interested in joining me.  That's how Douglas McGlynn and I ended up spending our winter semester researching the historic commercial buildings of Old East Village in London, Ontario.

Building upon and updating some research that had been conducted a few years ago in the Geography department, Douglas and I used ArcGIS Online to create an interactive map that describes the architectural changes that took place over time to the commercial corridor of Old East Village.  Using city directories, fire insurance plans, historic and modern photographs we tracked how these buildings changed over time, not only in looks but in use as well.

If you would like to learn a bit more about it, head over Old East Village Commercial Corridor project website!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Movin' Out

These past few months have certainly been devoid of frequent blog posts, and for those of you who check regularly, I apologize.  It has turned out to be a much busier summer than I anticipated.  Between my internship, job hunting, vacationing, and 1812 events - time seems to be flying by.  Along with all these things, Doug and I moved into a new apartment in June. 

When we first moved to London, we rented a house from a family who was spending a year in the States.  They were friends of Doug's supervisor who put us in touch with them as possible tenants.  We really lucked out with our living accommodations for our first year in Canada, and knew it was going to be a hard act to follow.  Fortunately, this past year gave us a chance to learn the city and get an idea of which neighbourhoods we might want to live in. 

We had been living in what's known as "Old North."  This part of London was an ideal location for us, as it was easy walking distance to both campus and downtown.  We were also close to public transportation, which made it a nice commute during inclement weather.  We also liked that even though we were living in the city, we still had a 'neighbourhood' feel and could easily go out for a walk/run/bike ride.  In fact we found ourselves only using our car once or twice a week - mostly to get out to Fanshawe Pioneer Village for my research assistantship (since unfortunately, the bus system doesn't reach there) or to pick up groceries. 

There were a few things we looked for in a new place:
  • Neighbourhood - Although we are both currently attend Western (though the end is near for me!), we aren't what you would call 'typical' college students, and so wanted to avoid any apartments or houses that were in the concentrated student area.  (Nothing against college students - we both enjoyed our undergrad years, we're just an old married couple now and intend to live as such!)  We wanted to be in a nice neighbourhood in London, conducive to evening walks and Saturday afternoon bicycle rides.

Accessibility - We have also both come to enjoy leaving our car at home on most days (although with my current internship I'm driving more, but I hope to go back to the walking/biking/busing commute come fall) so an accessible location was important to us.  After a year, we know what parts of town we frequent so easy routes to these places was important.
  • Size - We have learned that for us one of the keys to a happy marriage is our own space.  So we really wanted a two-bedroom place.  Plus, with comprehensive exams coming up for Doug, and job hunting in my future (well, it's in my present too...) a home office was something we really wanted this time around.  Sometimes you just need a door to close....

  • Character - London is filled with great heritage homes and apartment buildings.  Though this was definitely a 'want' and not a 'need', we did look for a place that had some character or history to it.  We both hate moving, so wanted to find an apartment we could settle into for our next three or four years in London, so it had to be someplace we liked.

  • Management - Do enough apartment hunting, and you'll start to get a feel for the type of people/company you want to rent from.  We have really been spoiled with the places we have lived.  Both the on-site manager in our Michigan apartment, and the family we rented from our first year in London were great.  We wanted someone we felt comfortable with, and would make for a good living situation.
  • Budget - Did I mention that we're both currently grad students, and I don't yet have a job lined up following graduation?  So, yea - the price had to be right.

After a bit of a search, we finally found an apartment that we fell in love with.  We have relocated to 'Old South' London in an area situated between the Wortley Village and SoHo neighbourhoods.  The apartments were built in the 1940s and still retain a lot of the character from the time.  We have great hardwood floors and crown moulding.  (It also means we have a lot of quirks of old buildings, including windows that tend to stick in the humidity and no outlets in the bathroom.)  Overall, the pros definitely outweigh the cons and we love our new place.  We are still learning our new neighbourhood, since previously we had spend most of our time in North London, but so far we really like it.  We're walking distance from down town and have easy access to bike trails.  Plus, there is a bus stop with a line that leads directly to Western just outside our door - which is ideal for Doug.

At this point we are pretty much settled, with only a few purchases left on our apartment 'wish list' but it's getting there.  Visitors are always welcome!