Deja Vu


“Edgeworth” (2003)

(320/12) 770 O’Farrell Street; Edgeworth Hotel. Rooming house with forty rooms and twenty baths; 3B stories; brick structure; two-story galvanized iron bay windows with red tile roofs, red brick facade with beige brick and green tile trim, giant brick piers, stepped and gabled parapet; two-part vertical composition; Renaissance/Baroque ornamentation; vestibule: entry in one of two ground level brick arches, marble and tile floor, fanlight over doorway; alterations: security gates and grilles, aluminum windows. Original owner: Ellen E. Herrin. Architect: W.J. Cuthbertson. 1914.

I grew up in a Midwestern city, in a white-collar neighborhood on the east side of town. My mother’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Tobin, lived on the west side, in a predominantly blue-collar area known as the Hilltop. Theirs was a large, working-class house of dark-red brick with white trim, on a street lined with huge, old elm trees. Other streets in that part of town were lined with apartment buildings and rooming houses that looked much like the Edgeworth, except that many had storefronts on the ground floor. One such storefront, on Sullivant Avenue, was a tavern known as the Tap Room.

The proprietor of this establishment was my other grandma, Bertha Ellinger, who would sometimes take care of me for a day or two when my parents wanted some time off. If Grandma E had to work while I was staying with her, she would just take me along. A little toy from the five-and-dime store, a bottle of pop from the cooler, potato chips and a Swiss cheese sandwich on rye bread with French’s mustard would keep me occupied while she tended the bar. On bright, hot summer days it was always dark and cool in the Tap Room. Bertha’s clientele, all of them blue-collar workers, were friendly with me and would sometimes tease me because I was quiet. Grandma E’s stern Germanic temperament did not inspire frivolity.

Strange, how these long-lost memories are brought into sudden, sharp focus by the Edgeworth, a hotel more than 2,000 miles and half a century away from my childhood. . . .

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