Working at Home, as My Grandfather Did, is an American Tradition

Home GuruBy Bill Primavera

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to work from home, which for some is a big switch in both working conditions and home life. 

But my family has had a long tradition of working from home, starting with my paternal grandfather, Emanuele Primavera. I remember my mother telling me stories about how he worked my poor grandmother half to death in the basement of their home in South Philadelphia where he had set up a soda water bottling business. It was my grandmother’s job to wash the returned bottles and to refill them.

Along the way, she gave birth to 18 children, but only five survived, owing to the pandemic of 1918 and generally the lower survival rate of children before and after that time.

I am told that some people are having a hard time finding themselves in a situation now where they must work from home for the first time because of COVID-19, but I myself have worked from home for nearly 40 years, running first an antiques business, then a public relations firm and later adding my real estate business to that.     

Other entrepreneurs forewarned me that I might have a hard time disciplining myself to put in the effort and time required to run my own business, especially from home, where I might easily be distracted. But for me, it was natural, maybe because of my heritage.

The first home I bought, an 1826 landmarked home in Brooklyn Heights, was first built by a cooper (barrel maker) who ran his business from the first floor. When I purchased that home and ran the antiques store in that same space, I felt a connection to its workplace history.

A mid-1920s soda water bottle from the at-home business of The Home Guru’s grandfather.

Then when I moved to Westchester, I specifically chose an historic home whose layout facilitated an at-home business, first an antiques store, then the public relations business. Originally it was owned by a gentleman farmer who was also one of Westchester’s most prominent physicians in the 18th century.

I eventually reached the stage where I wanted other people to do all the home chores that I became expert in over the years, and which I share with the reader in this column. So, I next bought a condo at Trump Park, where all services are provided. I still work from home.

Recently, I conducted research on my grandfather who established the Primavera homestead on 10th Street in South Philadelphia. I considered it a neat coincidence when my first apartment in New York City happened to be on 10th Street. What’s more, I was thrilled just last week to find on eBay an antique soda water bottle from my grandfather’s business with his name and address on it. 

My grandfather died in 1934 before I was born, so I never got to know him, but somehow my finding that antique soda water bottle has connected me to him. By the time this article is published, that bottle will likely be in my possession, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands, knowing that it passed through his hands a hundred years ago while working at home.

For all of my other community members who are also working at home right now, consider that you’re experiencing a long-held American tradition that can be enjoyed as much now as it was then.

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 914-522-2076.