We're so excited to introduce Barton Village resident, volunteer, and guest blogger Linda Kraan-Benson. Linda moved to the Barton Village area around twelve years ago, and swiftly set to work getting to know the neighbourhood, its residents, and business owners. We're delighted to have her as a guest blogger, sharing her unique perspectives on Barton Village. Linda is especially interested in making neighbourhoods accessible for their senior population, and her posts will explore Barton Village from a senior's perspective, covering all sorts of hidden gems along Barton while raising broader issues around how to create safe, liveable, and inclusive neighbourhoods.
Okay...take it away, Linda!
TWO SIDES OF BARTON - from a Senior's point of view
At the time I moved to the area, this piece of Barton street seemed to be in some sort of inertia. I noticed that some once-beautiful buildings had declined into a fragment of their former glory. Yet the essence of these buildings, and the general atmosphere of the street, brought distant memories of a long-ago vibrancy.
I was not born in Canada, having moved from across the pond in 1982. I raised my two boys in the serenity of Waterdown, once a part of the Halton region, now part of Hamilton. Once the boys flew the coop, I had an urge to move to Hamilton, though I can honestly say: I have no idea where that urge came from! Specifically, I had no idea of what Hamilton had to offer, nor had I even visited the city on more than a handful of occasions, yet the urge was there, and so I moved, first to the mountain. (I honestly have to say, being a Brit, I did not understand why it was so called...to me it felt like a mere incline, "up the road', as we would say, but after a while, I too referred to this incline as "the mountain"! Amazing how titles and words take hold and leave an indelible impression in ones mind...)
A few years on, another gut feeling hit me: this time, it was the urge to move down into the lower city. You have to understand, at this point I had never visited the lower city; after all, I was warned never to venture down there. I had visions of all sorts of misdoings, from street crime to the more serious. People would ask me why I thought there was a jail on Barton street, and I had no answer. But, to the chagrin of my mountain-raised neighbours and friends, I decided to take the plunge and move downtown. I probably could not have chosen a "worse" area to move to. At the time, I really didn't know the difference; I was looking only at the value of real estate. I mean, where else could I have bought a beautiful, all-brick house, with a spectacularly sized backyard and double parking space, for the low cost of $99,000? This was 2009, and prices were rising rapidly elsewhere.
Ok, so I bought a house next door to the "infamous" Emerald Street -- hey, what did I know? I was in awe of the beautiful old houses, the wonderful, family-operated stores, and the vibrancy of my neighbours, from all walks of life: Italians, French, Portuguese, and a lovely couple from Jamaica. Just a couple days after moving into this neighbourhood, I decided to take a tour of Barton street, on foot. Each day I would walk, from Wentworth as far as Kenilworth and back -- mind you, i was much younger and much fitter in those days, and wore out many pairs of running shoes. I can no longer walk so far, so these days I typically walk two or three blocks at a time.
I came to know of the many "drug houses" in my new neighbourhood, and other "seedy" operations around me. Slowly, I got to know many of the "street ladies". And I came to know where I should walk during the darker hours, and where not to. As the years passed, I witnessed a "cleansing" of the neighbourhood, as I personally called it. Slowly, some of the "sweat shops" and the drug houses shut down. Houses went up for sale, and outsiders would trickle in. To say I have seen an enormous change, an emergence in the this neighbourhood, does not do justice to it. This has become a vibrant and exciting place to live.
For the sake of this blog, I will break down Barton Street, into two sections: going east from Wentworth to Sherman and going west from Wentworth to Ferguson. As the months go by, I hope you will take this journey with me, along the two sides of Barton.