Children’s Nonfiction

This is a re-post from an earlier incarnation of my blog, originally posted in September of 2011.


I used to live near a building that used to house a classic Men’s Shop. When it was operating, it was the kind of place that dads would take their sons to get their first suit – going there was a rite of passage for young men. The business opened in 1918. In 1940, after a devastating fire that destroyed the building and all of its contents, they rebuilt in a style that was very much of its time. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was certainly distinctive.

In 2004, the company closed the store – which was located in a struggling urban neighborhood – and relocated to a nearby suburb. The building sat vacant for several years, and then in early 2011, it was sold at auction.

A local businessman bought the building, but, sadly, he only wanted the land under it. It was demolished. So now, I live near a vacant lot.

As vacant lots go, this one isn’t very distinctive, but it has its points. For one thing, I love to see what’s left when a building is taken down. Little details can be so fascinating. For instance: hollow brick and peeling floral wallpaper.

But what I find most interesting is this:


For reasons that we have yet to figure out, one of the remaining walls is labeled Children’s Nonfiction.

We think the building may have been used as a temporary location for the neighborhood library, which is located across the street, and was originally built in 1985. We could dig deeper and find out for sure, but I like letting the mystery linger.

I will be very sad when this final wall is demolished or covered up, which is likely to happen when the new building is built. We’ve heard it will be a drugstore. I am not optimistic that it will be the kind of place that a kid remembers the first time they visited, or that it will be even slightly distinctive.

Epilog: I have since moved. It turns out that they never built the drugstore, or anything else, where the men’s shop used to be. Almost five years later, it’s still a vacant lot. The yellow flowered wallpaper and hollow brick are gone, and the wall that read ‘Children’s Nonfiction’ has been painted over.
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