People over things

This comes out of some email correspondence I had this week about an inquiry about a Shaw house’s history. Sometimes you can find the date of when something was built, sometimes not. The date on my lovely domicile is based on tax records, one year it’s taxed as land, next year land and an improvement, no permit, and zilch about a builder. However, my interest in structures, my own particularly, is based on maintenance and bases for complaints when it comes to maintenance and the inadequacies of the building.
I have a greater interest in flesh and blood than bricks and mortar. People do things, they go to work, they have families, they have relationships, they have a story, and the place where they live is absolutely uninteresting without them.
And the people I’m most interested in are the ones who lived around here. This is to differentiate from the landlords who most likely, didn’t. I’m picking up from some of you a thinking that the focus should be on the property owner. Maybe in other parts of the country, maybe the place where you came from, people built and bought homes to live in. Maybe they made their little plot, a family home, where at least one generation would remember it fondly as the place they grew up and a place to return. Not the case here. The owners were landlords, their family homes were elsewhere. In the case of the woman who once owned my house, it was just another investment, something that could be bought and sold and rented out for income.
From the 1880 to 1930 census stuff I’ve seen, there were a lot of renters in the neighborhood. And I’ve noticed these people moved around. I was trying to find out who was the earliest family to live at a certain TC house on the 1500 blk of 1st Street. I found the family living there a few years after the date the house was built, and when I went back through the city directory (arranged by name) to see if the house existed a previous year (and it would be confirmed by that family being there in those previous years), that family lived further up 1st in Eckington.
The fun question then becomes, why move around? Why stay in a place for only a few years only to move 1/4 mile somewhere else? Why can’t you stay in one spot? The building just sits there, and doesn’t generate a lot of questions for me. The building is the backdrop, the scenery, the stage, but the play is nothing without the performers.
I’ve rambled enough, but sometime later I want to return to the idea of what it means to be an area with a very restless renter population.