Researching Old Addresses Online Helps Tell Our Own Story

Home GuruBy Bill Primavera

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about discovering online an antique soda water bottle that was filled in and distributed from my grandfather’s home business in Philadelphia. 

It was a very heartrending exercise for me, having never known my grandfather but now feeling a connection to him through that bottle which I claimed for my collection of historic items. It certainly means more to me than anything else I’ve purchased of an antique nature.

Not everybody feels that same kind of yearning for one’s roots as I do. I remember that my older sister always looked forward, never back. She had moved around the country a lot, married to an engineer who accepted a number of jobs in various locations.

I once asked her if she ever wanted to revisit our childhood home or any of the homes she occupied during her own family’s experience. No, she said, she had no interest in going back in time. In fact, I think she enjoyed and looked forward to the next move, the next home, the next chance to furnish and decorate.

Then again, maybe it was the opportunity for her to upgrade her properties each time she moved. I know that her investments paid off in terms of the profits she earned from each sale.

I’m on the opposite end of the pole. From a young age, I longed to establish a household with roots, a true homestead that I could furnish, decorate, hone to my personality and express what I aspired to. 

But perhaps I went too far.

A case in point: Because I always loved collecting things, by the time my daughter was in elementary school, I had quite an ensemble of antique furniture and wall décor. I remember that one of my daughter’s playmates visited our home and, seeing a house full of collected furnishings and antiques, asked my daughter, “Gee, are you rich?”

That question was forwarded to me by my daughter, and I laughed, saying, perhaps flippantly, “No, dear. We just live far beyond our means.”

Little did I know that the story would be echoed by my daughter’s playmate to her teacher and class when they were sharing interesting places they had visited. My daughter’s little friend said, “I went to Emma’s house. It’s beautiful and filled with wonderful things because her father and mother live far beyond their means.”  When the teacher relayed that story to me on Parents’ Day, I turned bright red. But what could I do? Children are honest conduits from our homes to the outside world. 

It’s been six years since my family lived in that old house where my wife and I matured and raised our daughter. But occasionally I find myself going online to look at the photos posted when we were selling it. It’s like time travel. The gardens look so beautiful and each interior space is staged to its best advantage.

As I look at those photographs, I remember where I secured the various items we collected and recall the events that happened in those rooms. I remember entertaining in the living room at Christmas, and family gatherings in the dining room on Thanksgiving and Easter. This kind of extraordinary time travel could never have been done before the internet.

But today’s real estate market is powered by that internet, which really didn’t exist when I bought my last home, and we can go back and visit the homes of our childhood, even the homes of our parents and grandparents. It can be a very interesting study indeed.

Online I have recently visited the house where I was born in Philadelphia, the various houses we lived in as I grew up in Virginia, my college apartments and my first homes in New York. It’s fun. Especially at a time when we might want to space out from the pandemic’s woes of restrictions and isolation, it’s enjoyable to remember the more sociable times we enjoyed making our houses into homes with our family and friends. 

Hopefully those times will return soon.

While both a writer and publicist, Bill Primavera is also a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (, specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call Bill directly at 914-522-2076.


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