While scouting possible locations for my daughter and her soon-to-be husband here in the City of Homes we happened upon a street name which was familiar to me because both my brother and sister had rented pseudo apartments on that street in their early married years. I say “pseudo” because they were Archie Bunker style single family houses originally which were then chopped up into multi family structures: the duplex as I came to know it in Springfield. I didn’t see a purposefully designed duplex until I went out west to college.
The complexion of the street has changed drastically. The homes are not as well cared for, and the city’s laissez faire approach to its urban forest has left it somewhat bereft of an arboreal canopy. What is odd is that in a very different way it is still a spectacular street for a young married couple to start out. 40 years ago the combination of Springfield style duplexes and single family homes gave the appearance of almost having moved in to that suburban home…at rental prices. It was close enough even to downtown that my brother could walk to work when needed. At 30 minutes the walk would make a long-ish commute, but doable.
Today what makes Wilmont Street so potentially perfect is a combination of a price point so low that an entry level job can give you the wherewithal to purchase a home, and its location not just a short walk from the shopping and restaurants at the “X”, but only two blocks from Forest Park, all the while it is nestled amongst 3 different bus lines. As I explored the street with my wife we talked about how perfect it could be for Xela and Taylor. He might even be able to work nearby as there is more than one health care facility in the neighborhood. A family could get by with one car or perhaps even without one altogether.
The same old story: “Location, location, location.” But quite different really.
For generations people have said that it was location which sold a home but in truth it was unlocation. No one wanted to live in a place which anyone other than the people who lived there could find useful. Even living near a school, an asset when children walked to school and could be encouraged to go play on its playgrounds after school, was a liability in an age of the ubiquitous yellow bus or the seemingly infinite line of cars waiting to pick up or drop of the children too precious or too delicate for the “cheesewagon”. Living near shopping, business, or even a public park could also bring that most odious of neighbors: traffic.
What is neighborhood traffic but other people using your location for something they find useful?
The ideal place, then, was a place near no place, with nothing that anyone else might find desirable, coupled with discouragingly poor access for others. I’ve just defined a cul-de-sac subdivision have I not? It only takes stepping away from the dominant paradigm for a second and it becomes clear that, for all its current superficial flaws, Wilmont Street:
as a place to live your life.
In my essay on weather you might recall I made the point that 50 years of propaganda claiming that a wet climate is inferior to a desert doesn’t make it so. In the same way I would posit that living in a place that people would only visit when they absolutely have to (Because they were specifically coming to see you!) means that you live, quite literally, in an undesirable place. On the other hand, living in a place people already know, even if they themselves don’t live there, because they choose to visit it for various other reasons means that you live, by definition, in a desirable location. Location. Location.