So You Want to Save a House?

I am speaking on this panel today. I am talking about how you can collaborate with a land bank to market historic houses in your neighborhood that they were going to either demolish or let languish.

Lose sleep! Work hard! Eventually get neighbors! It’s great.

The details: So You Want to Save a House?
Published in: on January 27, 2016 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  
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“We know the name of the architect of Grand Central, but who swept the floors?”

–Studs Terkel

I heard this quote on a StoryCorps podcast this morning, and spent a moment hovering on the brink of crying in my car. Yes, yes, a thousand times YES. This is why old buildings matter, because they belong to all of us. Because you can point to it and say I lived there, I worked there, I went to school there. It is built, physical proof that you exist, that your life story is true. I thought about a kid (now in his early 20s but I still think of him as a kid–ed.) I know on the North Side of St. Louis…. Many of the buildings he’s lived in have been torn down. A mutual friend remarked, “It’s like the carpet of his life is rolling up behind him.”

So yeah, this is why I sometimes lose sleep over a humble house. This is why my favorite building is a two-story storefront (ILY, 4831 Fountain). This is why I say we need to talk about the stories of buildings’ lives and what they meant to people, not just which catalog the architect Dead Q. Whiteguy ordered the terracotta from (as much as YOU KNOW I love that info too). This is why I talk about the neighborhoods we lost for the freeways and the ones we are still losing to sketchy banks and Paul McKee.

The Guardian Building matters because it is so goddamn beautiful but also because it was built by many sets of hands, also because so many people have worked there and walked through the doors. The Guardian Building also matters because we all love it, visit it, show it off, take it as a proud symbol of our identity as Detroiters, photograph it, run our fingers over the carved stone. Standing in the Guardian Building’s lobby fills me with emotion but I am moved just as strongly (if in a different way) by standing in the front yard of the burnt house that was my mother’s childhood home.

Places matter, and they matter because of *all* of their people.


Yesterday I learned a gross and fascinating fact of the “Old buildings are something, aren’t they?” variety.

It is possible for a century-old storefront to get the meatsweats.

Some friends told me about how their building, which was a meat business until a few years ago, has a big dark area in its hardwood floor. When it gets hot out, it turns white–the wood exudes a thin coating of animal fat. Past lives of the building come out of the floor.

Published in: on January 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Clerical error leads to easy demolition of historic district building in St. Louis

Clerical error leads to easy demolition of historic district building in St. Louis

Not even surprised. Not remotely surprised. Yesterday at work I told a coworker, “I’m trying to be extra careful, because I’ve seen the wrong building get torn down before. In St. Louis.” Today I saw this.

This building was being demolished last time I was in town, and I thought it was weird.

We are only even hearing about this because it happened south of Delmar. If this was somebody’s house in North City, fuhgeddaboutit.

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Detroit Church Blog

Detroit Church Blog

I just stumbled across this while answering a personal reference question, and thought some of you might enjoy it.

If you have passed a pretty, historic, Polish Catholic church in Detroit and wondered what the interior looks like and whether it’s still open, this website has your back.

As an East Side resident, the first two pages of the blog alone have shown me several buildings I was curious to see inside! I should really try to find an excuse to walk through Transfiguration Church. I bike past it frequently in warm weather, and from the photos on this site, I can tell that the inside is full of the same gorgeous old tilework that made me notice the building in the first place.

Published in: on January 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Drinks and Mortar: Drinking beer brewed in South City.

Hey y’all….

Drinks and Mortar is a monthly happy hour for anyone and everyone interested in buildings, from urban explorers to neighborhood boosters.

Drinks will be from 7-10 pm this Thursday, March 26th, at Mattingly Brewing Company, located at 3000 S. Jefferson in Benton Park. It’s convenient to the 30 Soulard, 11 Chippewa, and 93 Midtown South County buses. Mattingly brews their own beer, and has a number of different varieties available. Bonus: Their pizza is AMAZING. We hope to see you there–we got buildings to talk about!

PLEASE NOTE: Drinks and Mortar will be taking its first-ever hiatus for the month of April, but we’ll be back full force in May! Our May gathering will be on the 28th, at The Bleeding Deacon. Clear yer calendar now!

Any questions, e-mail clairelovesthecity {at}!

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Drinks & Mortar: Help Keep Your City Clean

Drink​s and Morta​r,​ a month​ly happy​ hour for peopl​e who are inter​ested​ in citie​s,​ will be from 7-10 pm this Thursday,​ Febru​ary 26th,​ at Mandi​na’​s,​ 1319 Saint​ Louis​ Avenu​e in comeb​ack-​a-​riffi​c Old North​ St. Louis​.​

That’s right, drinks will be in my awesome neighborhood this month.

It’​ll be an evening of cheap​ drink​s and good compa​ny,​ half a block​ from Crown​ Candy​.​ See you there​!​
Any quest​ions,​ e-​mail clair​elove​sthec​ity {at} gmail​.com.

clair​e nowak​-​boyd

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 6:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Drinks this Thursday: Illinois.

CHEER​ UP, EMO GOVER​NOR!​ It’s time for Drink​s & Morta​r!​
Drink​s & Morta​r is a month​ly happy​ hour for peopl​e inter​ested​ in archi​tectu​re and civic​s.​ For the month​ of December,​ we will gathe​r start​ing at 7pm on Thurs​day,​ Decem​ber 18th at O’​Conne​ll’​s in Grani​te City. O’​Conne​ll’​s is locat​ed at 2401 Washi​ngton​ Avenu​e in Grani​te City,​ Illin​ois.​

I know Illin​ois is anoth​er state​,​ yeah yeah,​ but now that the McKin​ley Bridg​e is open again​,​ it’s just a short​ scoot acros​s the river​.​ And O’​Conne​ll’​s is worth​ it: They have my favor​ite jukeb​ox in the area and a beer selec​tion so extensive it needs​ its own binde​r.​ There​ is pub grub as well.​ O’​Conne​ll’​s is cash only, so come prepa​red.​ O’Connell’​s is my favor​ite bar these​ days,​ hands​ down.​ I hope you’​ll join us there​ on Thurs​day!​

Clair​e Nowak​-​Boyd
clair​elove​sthec​ity {at} gmail​.​com

Published in: on December 16, 2008 at 7:53 am  Comments (1)  
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Drinks! Tonight! Oh boy!

Hey all,

Small & informal Drinks and Mortar tonight, Tuesday the 25th, at Triumph Grill, 3419 Olive. 7pm onward. Booze and appetizers, in a motorcycle-themed space designed by our friend Andrew Peppin. Spread the word!

Claire N-B

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 7:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thursday: Say NO to demolition and YES to pizza!

Hey y’all,

It’s time for the next installation of Drinks & Mortar, the monthly happy hour about architecture, civics, and other delights. We’ll gather starting at 7pm on Thursday, October 23rd, at Riley’s Pub. Riley’s is located at 3458 Arsenal (Convenient to the #70 Grand and #30 Soulard buses). Riley’s is one of my favorite bars in the whole city, and I’m really excited that we’ll be there this month. It’s got good pizza, a respectable jukebox, old old wooden booths and marble tables, and just a general feeling of comfortableness and camaraderie. Riley’s is not in my neighborhood, but it feels like my neighborhood bar nonetheless.

If you’ve heard about D&M but you’ve not made it out to join us before, I really encourage you to consider coming out. We’re a friendly and varied bunch, and even if you don’t know anybody, I’m sure you’ll find all sorts of people to talk with about all manner of local and general city-related topics.

Once again, the talented Darren Snow has designed us a fantastic flyer. Here it is, for your enjoyment (and in case you want to pester anyone to come with):

Claire Nowak-Boyd
ever the rabble-rousin’ hostess
clairelovesthecity {at}

Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 3:31 am  Comments (2)  
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