Monday, July 31, 2017


I live and work in the same zip code that I grew up in.  Aside from my college years and about 12 months after school working in the greater NY metropolitan area, I have lived in the same school district my whole life.  Our kids now go to the schools I attended.  I like to tell people I didn’t get very far.  This flippant comment hits really close to home, though.

The current office (in red box) and environs.  Photo Credit:  Google Maps.  The farm I worked for is to the left.
An enlarged image from within the red box above.
I was just having lunch with several coworkers and we got on the topic of first jobs.  Recollections were fairly straightforward:  ice cream shop, mowing lawns and landscaping, sandwich shops…  My first job was no more unusual than any of the others, given that I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I worked on a farm, picking strawberries, peaches, and of course:  sweet corn.

The unusual part of my story was the location, not the vocation.  We sat in our “new” four year old office.  The view out the window, had it been just five or six years earlier, would have been much different.  Our office sits on a lot that previously had been planted with corn or soybeans for as long as I can remember.  It is in those fields where I first worked.

2004 aerial photo.  The striations in the green there show early May corn where the office currently sits.
My first real job, one where I clocked in and out and had taxes deducted from my check, was as a farmhand, picking corn on the lot where I would work in an office 25 years later.  I worked between May and August 1989 starting at 5:00 AM, pulling corn off their stalk in the near dark.  The scratchy leaves of the stalks and sticky silk of the ears still held on to significant amounts of water, making it impossible to stay dry just minutes into your day, even in a drought.  I learned to pull “ready” sweet corn off the stalk in the dark, just from the feel in the hand.  You can imagine the contempt I feel today when I see people peel back the husk on every single piece of corn at the grocery store before they bag it.  Amateurs…but I digress.

This was the view from my window one morning.
Our former office, the one we used for 25 plus years and I spent 15 years in, is only 2 miles from our current digs.  But there was something serendipitous about the new location literally occupying the same earth I worked as a 16 year old.  The new office property contains a significant amount of unbuildable land due to the presence of wetlands.  Because of this, the view from my desk is nearly unchanged from when I toiled in the fields 25 years ago.  There are cat tails, wild flowers, and the same clump of trees that follow the path of the muddy creek cutting the property in half.  The back half of our property is a veritable wildlife preserve, home to snapping turtles, birds of all kind, a herd of young deer and we even have sighted a red fox a few times.

Typical summer time view from my window.

That is a red fox in the distance (winter view).
So is it really a homecoming when you never really left?  I think so.  While I now work literally across the street from where I lived in high school, our office has clients all over the country.  I have worked on projects in Oregon, Colorado, New York, New Hampshire, Georgia and Texas, just to name a few.  But the greatest thing about working here is that it feels just like home, for more reasons than just the geography.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series (led by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect ) where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is "Homecoming".  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:
-->Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Coming Home to Architecture

-->Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
looking back i wonder

-->Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Coming home as an architect

-->Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
9-11 -- A Look Back

-->Michael Riscica AIA - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Homecoming & Looking Back

-->Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Homecoming Memories

-->Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Letter to a Younger Me

-->Kyu Young Kim - J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Homecoming, in 3 Parts

-->Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Just give me a reason : Homecoming

-->Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

-->Gabriela Baierle-Atwood - Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
My Ode to Fargo

-->Jane Vorbrodt - Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Looking Back Through the Pages

-->Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

-->Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Looking Back...Was Architecture Worth It?

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