Walking around Downer
As we talked to the users of Downer, we found that many of their memories and stories were connected to specific places. We have therefore selected those sites that frequently came up during our interviews. These locations can be classified into two basic types of places.
The first category includes longtime businesses and institutions. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Downer Theatre have been here since the 1910s. They have never gone out of business, although the theatre was bought by Landmark Theatres in 1989. Storeowners of Sendik’s and Downer Hardware came to Downer in the 1930s and started as tenants in their current locations. They eventually bought these buildings.
The second category includes places where the tenants have changed over the years or locations that no longer exist. Mulkern’s and Downer Garages were originally built as automobile garages in the 1910s and eventually converted to clusters of individual retail shops. People frequently mention Coffee Trader, which was built in 1975 and operated until the late 1990s, and Nelson’s Popcorn Wagon, which operated at the corner of Belleview and Downer for nine decades.
We capture these ghosts of place theorized by Michael M. Bell, along with the changes in material culture. The ghosts remind us of social experiences long gone or of life that has now changed. They help us to tell stories that present-day objects, places and artifacts might miss.
View Places in Downer in a full screen map
- Michael Mayerfeld Bell, "The Ghosts of Place," Theory and Society 26: 6 (1997): 813–836.