Your home has a story.
In 2003, I was helping students in an archaeological methods class research the history of several houses in the neighborhood of UC Berkeley campus. Immersed in the documents of the Berkeley Historical Society and Bancroft Library, I decided to peek into the history of my own south Berkeley house. I found the names of a few past residents, and before long I wanted to know the whole story.
The house wasn’t designed by a well-known architect, and no one famous ever lived there. It certainly didn’t qualify for any kind of landmark status or historical designation. But the people who lived there were interesting. The neighborhood had changed so much in the years since the house was built that the walls of the little cottage had a story to tell. Finding that story made me feel connected to the history of the place I lived, and the people who inhabited it before me. When we sold it in 2008, I passed what I had learned along to the couple who bought our house, and they loved the connection it gave them to their new home.
My professional and academic background is in historical archaeology with a specialization in nineteenth and early twentieth-century communities, sites, artifacts, and documents. For my doctoral dissertation in anthropology at UC Berkeley I studied the Kaweah Cooperative Commonwealth, a nineteenth-century socialist utopian community in California. I’ve supervised archaeological surveys and excavations from a pre-contact campsite on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River to the buried remains of the demolished UC Botanical Conservatory in Berkeley, and helped research historical artifact collections from Canadian fur trade posts to San Jose’s 19th-century Market Street Chinatown. I’ve taught university-level courses in American material culture, introductory archaeology, historical archaeology and archaeological field methods. Through all of this, I’ve been reminded that history isn’t just about famous people and places, but about, around, and for all of us.
I started House Histories so that I could share my love of historical research with other homeowners in the Bay Area, and reveal old stories hidden in the places right where we live.