How to Find the History of a Home
What 'Chicken Joe from Dogtown, MO' taught me about my home.
Recently I reached out to a guy on Twitter under the moniker of 'Chicken Joe from Dogtown MO' who shares photos and stories of historic homes in the St. Louis region. Here's an example of one of his regular tweets -
I had sent him a DM asking how he comes up with the information that he shares along with his historic home photographs.
This was his reply —
"I have a subscription to newspapers.com, which has thousands of newspapers digitized and searchable going back to the 1800's! So I generally start with that to see if I can find who lived there and any other info.
I'll also use Google books and Ancestry.com to find out more about the individuals, and then UMSL and the state have digitized city directories, which gives addresses, occupants and their occupation. If I can't find any with those options, I'll go to the Missouri Historical Society on Skinker to look through the directories in person."
Before giving this explanation, Chicken Joe had offered to do it for my house and I agreed, giving a stranger on the internet my home address.
I wasn’t disappointed, he came up with some pretty neat information doing the first of his above steps, looking for references to my address on Newspapers.com.
Joe discovered that my home, which was built in 1896, was up for rent at $40/mo in 1899. That would be over $1,300 calculating for inflation in today’s dollars.
In 1903, the occupying family of 3 adults was looking for a live in maid.
In 1909, the home was back up for rent at $50 per month.
In May 1920, the home hit the market as an ‘8 bedroom Modern Residence’, advertising amenities such as electric light and a furnace. It also mentioned a slate roof that I wish had stood the test of time.
Unfortunately as time went on- the neighborhood as a whole fell on hard times. When I acquired my home, it had been vacant for nearly 30 years, lacking even its new features advertised in 1920 such as electricity and a furnace. Vacancy in the area today is in the double digit percentage range.
I reached out to Joe because my neighborhood’s development committee wants to tell more of these kinds of stories about the homes that still aren’t occupied- the ‘what they were and what they can be again’ narrative. Urban homesteaders are moving back in one by one. I look forward to seeing the area back in its former glory, I hope well within the decade.
Next week, I’m going to talk about a way to align goals with a partner.
Seize the day.