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I have always been a lover of lost faces. Perhaps it can be attributed to early morning photography lessons with my dad as he tirelessly explained depth of field, aperture, and shutter speed on his old Petri – before running to (or the worst – chasing and honking at) the school bus. Then there were weekend flea market excursions with my mom, where we gathered frames and photographs, tables and oddities abandoned from other people’s lives to decorate our house.  Or maybe it was the exploration of abandoned houses, a pastime my mom and I enjoyed sparingly, but that came to consume me once I got my driver’s license. Whatever the origins, the desire to rescue portraits of gone people has manifested itself within me. 

Whilst making this new batch of Tin Type journals and thinking about these lost souls, this passage from David Eaglemen's Sum, replayed over and over in my mind.

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...In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth…

   —T.S. Eliot from the Four Quartets, East Coker
  
We’ve done it! We’ve completely cleared out of our olde building, The Atlas Casket Factory, our home for the last 5 years and into our new space – The Foundlings Building! We’ve hauled every last tool, big and small, and every last maker into our new space – our open, air flowing, beautifully bright new home with parking and sunshine and in Port Richmond, Philadelphia. And it has all happened in less than a year!

Walter, Joe, Chris and Josh, as well as a handful of others, have been transforming the space over the last 9 months and still, we’ve all managed to make and design and send most* orders out without delay. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderfully talented, efficient and productive team as well as our supportive following – you! Our new space will no doubt be an inspiring place to create more treasures, photographs, jobs, and joyful days. And in time – a garden!

In addition to the building and the land, there is an elevated train track that borders one side of the property and the wall has already become the most fantastic backdrop for our new photographs.

We named the building Foundlings, as it is my hope to discover much about this tiny piece of land, both through the locals’ stories, and hopefully (look for me with a metal detector or a privy stick!) underground. Our acre was carved out in the early 1800s, as evidenced by some old maps (PhilaGeoHistories). There were homes built upon it and torn down, and sometime between 1934 and 1942, our building was erected as the new home of The Phoenix Dye Works. In the 1980s it was closed up (maybe even before), and in it grew a darkness, loaded with stuff and years of stories. When Walter tore through the ceiling to put in skylights, the dirt and dust came alive, dancing in a beam of sunlight eager to discover new territories.

It is 2017, and at Peg and Awl, we are ready to begin building our new stories...

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I loved Colonial Williamsburg, VA, of course. 

But I never got that feeling that sometimes takes over of actually travelling back in time. (There was a time long ago that I would go to the Philadelphia and walk around for hours with Ben Franklin's autobiography (and a random assortment of Philadelphia pasts) and read and imagine (easily) that I was there, nearly 300 years prior.) (This is something I kind of do(id) whenever I wander(ed), but mostly pre children). 

I enjoyed it more in a Twilight-Zone way. 

And learned a lot a lot - shoemaking, bookbinding, business &c. My most favourite was the brick house. Insanely fascinating and the numbers (10,000 brick fired each year - enough to make a chimney!) were beyond me. I am particularly good at small things.  

The one story I was most fascinated with was the Bowden-Armistead House. Or the woman in it who, it was told, sweeps her porch every Sunday. The mystery here is, that when she was approached by a Rockefeller who wished to purchase her home, she allegedly said, "I am not impressed with your money." This was in 1926, or the project began that year anyway. So Miss Bowden-Armistead (or Mary A. Stephenson) would be 86 years old if she was exactly 0 when she was approached. So perhaps it is a daughter who sweeps. The home was built in the 19th century and endured some modernity like telephone wires that cast wobbly lines on the not dirt road, but then all was sucked back. Buildings, wires, telephones, plumbing. Everything around her into the colonial era. And she remained. And she sweeps. Or her ghost sweeps. 

I really want to know and I kind of don't want to know.

 

 

 

you can see the house on the left...