The temporalia house living history social experiment and educational project
The History of the Project.
As I mentioned in the Personal Introduction above, I was a homeless veteran for 11 years, from 2002 to 2013. But I have an upbringing prior to that, and that upbringing has been the primary inspiration for this project. During my period of homelessness, I still was interested in the things I had always been interested in; Antiques and History.
I grew up in two worlds. My mother was a college educated writer for a Country Music cable talk show in the 80's & 90's and she lived in Tennessee in a modern rental apartment with all the modern amenities that everyone today takes for granted. My Grandmother lived in Weakley & later Sumner County, Tennessee and lived what would be considered today a very primitive and anachronistic life and never modernized. She didn't have electricity, city water or natural gas.
That part of Tennessee has many Amish (mostly Swartzbaugh) and Old Order Mennonite communities who lived very similarly to her, though with much less beautifully ornate British & Southern American antiques, but like the Amish, she cooked & heated with wood and lit & heated with kerosene. Some of the beautiful lamps she had, referred to today as "Gone With the Wind Lamps" were so beautiful, I can still see them clearly in my memory with great detail & have never seen lamps like she had for sale anywhere on E-Bay, Craigslist or Etsy.
I much, much preferred living with my Grandmother & I did spend most of my childhood with her. My relationship with my mother was very strained and unpleasant & I could clearly see the difference in lifestyles & how the two lifestyles affected each maternal figure in my life even at a young age. Home life at Grandmother's was more pleasant, made more sense to me, had far less stress & nothing ever seemed to break or need replacing.
I asked my Grandmother why she didn't want electricity when I was 12 and she told me about the history of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and the National Electrification Project. She was born in February 1914 & grew up, went through the Great Depression and World War 2 all without most modern amenities that even folks back then in the big cities had become used to.
The National Electrification Project was very slow moving and even today, not all of the United States has access to the grid. Some deeply rural areas, and all Amish and Old Order Mennonite areas never electrified. When the TVA came to her, finally, in 1959, she had already raised 5 boys and my Mom and just didn't see the point in spending money on something that she didn't need. Many folks who lived through the Depression maintained that "make do and mend" mindset because they realized, as many people today are totally unaware or in denial of, that it could happen again as easily as it did before. She also thought the poles were ugly and would only ruin her property & wouldn't have them. So she turned down the TVA's offer of electrification.
She fought battles with a modernizing world that wanted to force everyone to modernize, whether they wanted to or not, and it wasn't until 1970 that she finally won her argument with the County without a court trial as she was able to point out that all her children were already in college or professions and she no longer needed to "prepare children for the modern world" a bigoted argument often levied against the Amish and Old Order Mennonites in State attempts at forced modernization, and when she pointed out that two of her boys were in the Military and one was in the CIA that she felt she had prepared them perfectly fine. I think the mention of my uncle. who was in the CIA from 1962 until 1975 put the fear of something in them and they backed off.
While most 10-12 year old boys were out playing football or baseball on the weekends, I was with my Grandmother, partaking in my still favorite hobby today. Getting totally lost in Antique stores and malls. To me, these were better than museums because I could actually touch and pick up the items that interested in me. I would always ask her "Grandmother, what is this? How do you use it? How does it work?" By the time I was 12 I could repair and restore antique radios and TV's, appliances and had an intimate understanding of the care and maintenance of all sort of antique appliances, electronics & mechanical items.
Like my uncle, I joined the US Navy in the late 1990's and went into Naval Intelligence and served as an operational analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence and specialized in counter-terrorism analysis in Northern Africa for Special Warfare Operations. That's all I'll say about that, other than that I was not a Navy SeAL.
There were some unfortunate traumatic experiences in my Naval career which resulted in fairly severe PTSD & and an inability to cope with the civilian world in a post-9/11 era & I ended up on the streets as a result of difficulties maintaining employment and social relationships. I used that period to make a grand "road trip" and "see the real America" and I ended up traveling to 36 different States and have stayed, for some period of time or another, in 72 different cities. I had some amazing, humbling, and deeply spiritual experiences which changed my life forever & gave me whole different perspective on faith and religion, even though I had personally been an atheist since I was 13 and realized I was gay. I also had some humiliating & terrifying experiences that I wasn't sure I was going to live through at the time.
When YouTube came around in the early 2000's I would watch historical documentaries and historically themed dramas. I began seeing the most awful mistakes and outright lies & was shocked at how popular these totally fraudulent depictions of history were. Some of the worst came out of Great Britain with a number of infotainment trash series and shock/humor reality shows that made life prior to the modern era look like it was totally deadly, that everyone was a demented racist, and everyone hated it and was living in abject poverty and people were dropping dead like flies in "deathtrap houses" of the Victorian, Edwardian and Wartime eras.
I was infuriated at the horrid lies. They were produced by mostly young folks in their late 20's or early 30's, who never lived those lifestyles and I'm not sure who they interviewed, or what their sources were, but nearly all of their conclusions were incorrect and the results of these series caused people to hate and reject the past and idea that anything from the past has any value whatsoever today. I couldn't believe how popular these bald-faced lies were and how many people allowed them to influence their worldview and perspective of history to end up with essentially a delusional and hate-filled view of life from the 1870's to the 1940's, or otherwise a ridiculously rose-tinted glasses view of it.
I was watching these documentaries and fake reality shows from public libraries and open WiFi connections on laptops I had found in University dorm dumpsters at the end of Spring semester when the Freshmen throw out most of the stuff they can't be bothered to take home with them on Summer break. I got 7 really nice laptops that way over the years and was able to develop some computer skills, though my homeless status and lack of income or credit prevented me from getting certified in any of the skills that I am now more advanced in than some highly paid professionals today.
I vowed to myself that if I was ever able to get off the streets and into a home that I owned that I would outfit that house as closely as I could to the way I lived and was raised as a child just to prove these deceivers, history haters and social justice warriors wrong. I knew it would have to be in a home that I owned, as no landlord would let me replace a modern fitted kitchen with all antique fixtures and appliances, nor would they let me use kerosene for light and heat. IT would have to be a house I bought. It was only a dream, and one I thought that would never come true.
Then in 2009, I moved to Toledo, OH and applied for Social Security disability, as I had severely injured my right hand doing work-trade at a coffee house in Tucson AZ in 2007, which resulted in my thumb requiring reconstructive surgery and a bone fusion. I had to hitch-hike to 5 different States and went to 7 different Hospitals before I could find one that would perform the surgery at all. I was left with a half paralyzed right hand and a total inability to do the things that I was "technically qualified" to do in the civilian world outside of the intelligence community, all of which required fine-hand coordination and a strong, steady grip that could last all day. Mostly manual construction labor and working in kitchens as a line cook or short order cook. Without the full use of both of my hands, no manager or foreman will hire me.
I was approved in late 2012, when I had been living on the 6th floor of a bedbug infested public housing tower in downtown Toledo and was miserable the whole time I lived there, which was almost a year. My back-pay was given to me in May 2013, and as the foreclosure crisis had swept through Toledo like a Zombie Virus, may houses had been foreclosed on and were sitting abandoned in various states of decay.
On a lark, I went to realtor.com and looked up houses available in Toledo for my price range. I had a littler over $7,000 to spend. Surprisingly, and to my great joy, there were a 1300 sq foot Victorian cottage for sale in the oldest neighborhood in Toledo, the Vistula Historic District, and it was only $3,900. I had enough. I bought it immediately and paid cash. It had already had all the plumbing stripped out by scrappers, and the previous occupants (who were alcoholics) had stripped out the entire kitchen, leaving it a bare room with only one rotting counter-top and non-functional sink.
It was definitely a fixer-upper, but I had an income and could do it piece by piece, one project at a time until I had put myself together the house that I vowed to myself to build since the early 2000's, just to prove liars wrong. Then I had another idea, spurned on by ridiculous "doomsday prepper" shows and forums & "modern and urban homesteading" shows, sites and projects, nearly all of which were run by folks who really had no experiential knowledge in the lifestyles they were trying to live. I laughed heartily at this online content all throughout the Obama administration watching people buy overpriced crap that they didn't need, would quickly break, and in many cases would not perform at all as advertised. People's wallets had become open, spewing fire hydrants and they were bragging online about "how much they were saving."
Why should I just do it in silence? How can I prove someone wrong if they don't know I'm proving them wrong? I had the idea of starting a YouTube channel to both show how it's done, as well as explaining why I feel that living a historical lifestyle can be not only socially valuable, but very economic and inexpensive. The total cost of both the purchase of and the partial restoration and full furnishing of Temporalia House was $8871.63. That's for everything, including the price of the house. All the appliances, furniture, fixtures and housewares. Everything. Folks in many parts of the country regularly spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions doing what I have done for under $10,000.
Though I have done fairly well with the limited means I have, that doesn't mean that the journey here was easy or that I am in a secure position now. I have and am going through some truly awful and deeply embarrassing and infuriating experience and abuse in the process of putting my first home together and living the way I desire to live within the privacy of my own home and am currently experiencing one of the most evil and insidious forms of discimination I have ever personally experienced and I was forced to launch the public phase of this project about 2 years early. As I only want to talk about the positive things I've done and the positive plans I have for this home and the future of the overall project, I have placed the whole sordid and sad story of the struggles I've gone through and am currently going through here:
The Hopeful Future of the Project.
Immediate and Short Term Goals:
Currently, I am primarily interested in saving my house from being taken by the city in an act of blatant and malevolent economic discrimination, which is a part of a long-term pattern targeting everyone below the poverty line in the Vistula Historic District and even those who are in the middle class who have the audacity to recently purchase a house in this neighborhood, which, according to both city leaders and the banks that control the issuance of home equity and improvement loans, is not a neighborhood worth living in, providing home equity and improvement loans for, or a Nationally Registered Historic District worth any attempt at saving. We refer to it as "Demolition by Neglect" around here.
Medium Term educational project development Goals (1 to 5 years):
If I am successful in that endeavor, then my intentions are to continue raising funds to expand the project into a small neighborhood educational and resource complex which would include at least 2 other currently vacant historic homes of different sizes. These would be opened as a kind of "educational bed and breakfast" which would be fully functional historic homes with all the amenities and household appliances, fixtures, furniture and maintenance items from the late 1800's through to the late Depression era which would rented either on a whole house, or single room bed and breakfast style weekly and longer term temporary basis for individuals and families to vacation in a fully immersive and functional living history environment while learning practical skills that they can use in their own homes without having to experience the inevitable messes and mishaps which are all too typical for folks with no experience or direct personal tutorials and demonstrations so that when they get back to their own homes they will already be functionally proficient in the historic life-skills they booked a house or room in a house to learn and internalize.
This would not only provide a source of employment for anywhere from 10 to 25 individuals providing a relatively stable source of legal income for local neighborhood residents who have suffered a dearth of local walk-able job opportunities for well over 30 years with the only jobs available for most residents being "under-the-table" often illegal and exploitative underpaid cash jobs from one of the numerous local carry-outs most of which are deeply embedded in local chronic and long-term criminal activities up to and including drug and human trafficking. It would also be at least somewhat of an economic boon to this neighborhood by bringing in at least some outside tourist revenue into a neighborhood which has been denied the idea of "tourist interest" as anything more than the delusions of drug addicts, alcoholics and crazy people and may actually trigger more interest in small business development investment from investors looking to develop small business which are more well-suited to neighborhoods with the size and building style in Vistula rather than the larger and more expensive locations in downtown and elsewhere throughout the city.
Ultimately, I would like to see light-industry and regional products manufacturing development come in and bring industrial jobs back to a neighborhood inhabited by a very large number of unemployed people between the ages of 18-34 who are very well-suited to such work and could provide a great benefit not only to the local economy, but also to local society and culture through the customers purchasing the products they would be manufacturing on a smaller and scale with a focus on regional distribution rather than national or international distribution or large multinational automated production facilities. People would be proud to own regularly used products produced right in the region they are from.
Longer Term neighborhood infrastructure Development, project expansion
and neighborhood revitalization Goals (3 to 7 years):
This neighborhood, as most other pre-war neighborhoods. had small stores on many corners, including mine and I am also planning and brainstorming on ways to successfully re-open a long-vacant commercial "carry-out" or "corner store" store-front 4 houses down from me to not only provide the types of household food preparation, preservation and storage items which I use in my own home as well as other types, brands and eras which I don't have (for reasons of useless redundancy avoidance), sold at fair-market rates that are affordable by all economic classes, but also start the process of breaking the Food Desert deprivation that has been wreaking nutritional and economic havoc on Vistula for over 30 years by selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and other staples at fair-market rates comparable to every other neighborhood in the city which has a majority population above the poverty line.
Hurdles these goals and the project itself are facing:
On my street, most houses are technically worth less than $15,000 based on the current neighborhood environment and city managed infrastructure (the refuses to pave and re[air streets) and there are a large number of vacant houses and brownstones 2 blocks in any direction of me that the city leaders and planners have no intention of incentivizing anyone to purchase anytime soon, as they have repeatedly told local residents that they are intentionally neglecting this neighborhood as they have arbitrarily and idiotically made the delusional determination that this neighborhood, at least the houses on N. Huron St. to N. Michigan St. only have a "15-year remaining lifespan" (houses that have in some cases stood for almost 165 years) while they are simultaneously forcing the social and economic conditions that will turn that delusional bigotry into a self-fulfilling prophecy by;
Actively preventing any potential investor from coming in to the neighborhood investing in properties, commercial and residential, and actively refuse to market the real benefits of Vistula to any potential investors anywhere within 2500 Miles from Toledo, preferring instead to spend millions of dollars of the Capitol Improvements Budget to take expensive and wasted trips to Germany and China with no returns on those investments expected or received.
Actively and vigorously persecuting anyone who tries with meaningless authoritarian, and pointless regulatory restrictions, intentionally over-inflated tax values and arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement of building, historic and zoning codes that no one has full access to and are frequently deceived about the existence or requirements of.
Neighborhood Code Inspectors and Departmental Administrators who consistently lie to residents about the source of the criminal charges that just seem to randomly arrive in the mail one day without warning or any approach by the inspectors by telling those facing charges that one of their neighbors made a complaint.
I have, over the course of an exhaustive personal investigation, been able to determine that no neighbor in this neighborhood has ever made any complaints against any other neighbors over paint, garage roofs, fences, or porches. In fact, neighbors are more likely to offer to lend a hand or loan a tool whenever they see another neighbor outside doing any work they seem to be struggling with on their own. This is in an effort to divide neighbors from one another and turn them against each other so they fight amongst themselves, falsely blaming each other and causing neighborhood interpersonal tension which can and has lead to violence and effectively freely allowing the real "bad actors" to operate freely without facing any risk of accusation or exposure, and the civil lawsuits and likely criminal investigation and prosecution which would inevitably follow.
Intentional property over-valuation in an effort to tax people out of homes they own outright (often for decades and two or more generations) as well as fraudulent sales of tax delinquencies to corrupt and often fraudulent companies that buy the tax debts for pennies on the dollar and then immediately foreclose on the property without offering the owners any options to pay off the debt in any kind of reasonable fashion (if they offer any method at all).
An inept and corrupt Historic Commission that nearly always denies "Certificates of Appropriateness" for any improvements whatsoever on any smaller historic property based on arbitrary and totally non-historically accurate "preservation requirements" or will only approve them if they are performed by overpriced and ethically and professionally dubious contractors who are licensed and approved by either the local CDC, United North or the Toledo Historic Commission and charge rates that only individuals with incomes in the central middle income bracket or above can afford with any degree of financial safety and regularly and without consideration or discussion even permitted to take place approves dozens of destructive and unnecessary demolitions every year but refuses most requests for certification of planned renovations, even those which would return a house to a more original state of construction thereby considerable raising the property value and attractiveness to home-buyers specifically interested in historic properties.
Offensive and hostile law-fare and economic warfare campaigns through endless and intractable court battles and misdemeanor criminal housing convictions that can go on for years often resulting in jail time for homeowners that have not committed any offense which the long County Jail terms which are far over any reasonable consideration of punishment befitting of the so-called crime that has been adjudicated to have been committed and invariably cost homeowners thousands of dollars they could otherwise be spending on fixing their houses and are often required to seek extremely high-interest short term loans from sources such as payday and auto-title lenders as no mainstream bank will lend to any homeowner in this neighborhood and hasn't since the beginning of the 2008 housing foreclosure crisis under the totalitarian and economically discriminatory dictatorship of the most corrupt, unethical and morally bankrupt local housing court judges I have ever read the rulings and cases of in my life. As soon as one arbitrary, useless and often expensive requirement is met and the homeowner thinks they are in the clear, another one is ginned up soon thereafter to keep resident homeowners in a constant state of stress and confusion as to what is going on, who exactly is doing it to them and why.
Convictions for local residents are are essentially guaranteed under Judge McConnell for anyone West of N Superior St, in other words the streets that DON'T have large Queen Anne Arts and Crafts and Empire Revival mansions on them.
Hopefully, if I can save my own home from these very discriminatory and likely illegal practices and can achieve the immediate and short term goals listed above, I will be able to devote more time to a more concerted and high-intensity national fundraising and awareness campaign to be able to raise the funds needed to complete the stated expansion plans and develop and educational center which could help all Americans, regardless of their economic class, save money and live well and stop wasting their hard earned money and often far-too limited time on household products that don't perform as intended, require far too frequent replacement at too high a cost to be reasonable and rational to even the most wealthy among our population.