When I was a much younger punk than I am right now, every collective house in my city had some kind of name. It might have been descriptive of its inhabitants (The Monkeyhouse as in Welcome to the Monkeyhouse), location (Fernwood House, Fairfield House), or some other more ephemeral quality (Serendipity) – but whatever its constellation, the house name served as a fixing point when roomates were in constant rotation. Among subcultural Vancouver the same tendency exists, though I don’t go to many of these named homes – I am familiar with them in the passing conversation of shows, parties, and “roomates-wanted” advertisements.
The naming of homes is a much more mainstream tradition in countries like Britain, where certain historic building names even show up in the formal mailing address. This tradition goes back to the gentry in that country who liked to wrap up their manors and lodges in fanciful or stately names – and carried over into the tradesman and merchant class in mimicry of their betters.
Recently, Brian and I started the disucssion about naming our house on William Street – to reflect on the character of our block, to put an end to naming all the inhabitants in the house every time we send out a party invitation, to imbue our home with its own essence. Not to mention “branding” our canned goods and christmas gifts with cute labels.
Thus we have picked the name “Urban Crow Bungalow” to represent our little home – beset as we are by murders of raucous crows nesting in the beech trees that line our block. (Not to mention, enthralled by the dusk ritual referred to in Vancouver as “crow time” wherein the city’s skies fill up with black birds heading back to their roosting points in East Van and Burnaby.) Iconic birds.
A silly little thing, really – but one that reflects our need to create a rich domicile in which we are both industrious and restful, and a way to mark ourselves as a gathering place, a garden, a studio of living arts.