Latha math, Glaschu: Tenement House

tenement houseThe front entrance of Miss Toward’s dwelling.

Way up the hill, is this set of row houses, which though showing their age, are nicely situated and preserved. Tenement, is often thought of in terms of the negative. Perhaps it comes from the awful, pre-public housing from earlier in the last century. Glasgow tenements were a reaction to really horrible conditions of the working class and working poor in the 19th century. Here a nice row of homes, with a little green, large windows and plumbing must have been heaven on earth.

For £5, not exactly small potatoes for Glasgow, you can see how it used to be. Miss Agnes Toward never married, lived with her widowed mom all her life, and worked into her 70s. She lived a very average and normal life, except for those who consider her a packrat. The last ten years of her life was spent in a hospital, but her apartment remained intact during that period. Obviously, someone paid the rent.

A good friend of mine was sick recently and I had to close her apartment. This is a taste of what you will see. A person’s life reflective in the smaller things of their surroundings. The apartment remained somewhat intact, with certain elements restored or duplicates intended. The paper in the bedroom is jarring compared to the original sample, but who knows under what circumstance.

You do get an idea from the old bathroom and kitchen, what people lived like. I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen, but I loved the bathroom with its brass fixtures, it’s spacious tub and the overflow wooden cabinet over the tub which was the reservoir for the chain pull toilet with the wooden seat!

There are “closet beds” something outlawed after the 1890s. Reminiscent, for those of you who might have been to the Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam, of the chifferobe or cabinet bed that Saskia was sketched in. These must have been where her mother rented spaces to lodgers. These might have been toasty in the winter, but a nightmare during the summer.

The foyer had some kind of paper borders and original faux finish, as I remember was old-fashioned when I was a kid, and latex paint was being introduced. Humorously the old becomes the new, as in Fahrenheit 451, when Linda shows Montag the straight razor as being “the latest thing.”

TOWARD apt

Rough layout as I can remember. Please excuse the crude drawing.

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This was another one of those no photos allowed as if it was a repository for uncopyrighted gold. I did, however, shoot one of the hall which gives you an idea of the stairwell, well lit and spacious. Glasgow was a well-to-do, modern, industrial city. They were ahead of places like New York for creating safe and decent housing.

People, probably like you and me, lived this way a 100 years ago in Glasgow. You might want to take a peek. A little north of Sauchiehall Street, a little west from Glasgow School of Art, you climb further up the hill. I walked west from the subway station by the Wee Little Curry Shop, since it is on Buccleuch Street. You will probably have a nice view.

While kind of depressing to look back on an apartment clean, but out of fashion, you get a sense of how Miss Toward lived when the empire was the Empire. The guides are very nice, They have a real affection for the place. They are knowledgeable and I am sure your admission really does pay for their salary. It is an interesting half hour or so.

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