For over seven years, I was co-author of Historicist, an award-winning local history column at Torontoist.com. In long form pieces on Toronto’s history, I explored everything from First Nations accommodation of and resistance to settlers, to an amateur baseball team’s attempts to turn professional, to a night out at North America’s first Bollywood cinema.
Always placing an emphasis on research and context, the column gave an opportunity to explore interesting and engaging stories of the past, whether a new angle on a well-known person or uncovering a little-known event. Each, I think, revealed something—good or bad, grand or frivolous—about the city I lived in and the character of its citizenry.
Back in undergrad in Fredericton, where I studied history, I asked an American-born professor why he’d become a specialist in New Brunswick history. He told me he thought it was important, wherever you live, to become engaged in the local history, seeking stories and insights that enhance understanding of the larger context of regional, national, and international concerns. Taking this advice to heart is what led me to write about Toronto’s history, and, now that I’ve relocated to New Westminster, I aim to do something similar here.
Since arriving, I’ve been exploring my new home and reading its history, and I’m going to start sharing what I learn. Sometimes this site will feature long form writing, but most often it’ll be snippets of old news stories, anecdotes from old books and academic articles, archival photos that catch my eye, and notes on research in progress.
Local history, for me, isn’t just about celebrating the merits of old houses, or lauding the achievements of prominent citizens—although there’s always a place for both of these. I’ve long felt that the best method of celebrating a city is to better understand it in its full context, acknowledging not only positive achievements in city-building, but also the negative impacts or even downright unsavoury behaviour of some in that pursuit.
My goal is to find and focus on little known stories not always captured in the common narratives. I don’t want to simply rehash the work of earlier local historians but, since New West has enjoyed such an abundance of historical attention, some overlap is inevitable, especially as I first get started. I will cite all my sources in order to make clear whose work I’m building off as I craft my own interpretations over time. Some subjects I cover may already be known to readers. Some may be new. My only condition is that what I post is interesting or illuminating to me, and that everything is related to New West.
I welcome reader feedback, comments, and suggestions—particularly people’s personal experience with a given time and place I may be discussing.