Researching Historic Homes of Canton
One woman's quest to document all of Canton's historic homes.
Patricia Johnson may have a high-powered career during the day writing code for financial managers and traders at Fidelity, but in her free time, she's documenting historical homes in Canton.
"It's my passion," Johnson, who is also a curator at the Canton Historical Society, said.
These days, Johnson spends most weekends poring over the pages of the Canton Journal. This past rainy Sunday, it's a date from the 1932 edition.
Johnson explained that searching through old newspapers is the only way she'll find the stories behind dozens of homes she is reaching for a third volume in what she anticipates will be a 10-volume set of books called "Historic Homes of Canton," which could take years to complete.
But she said it's hard not to get sidetracked while doing her research.
"I laugh at angst of the time," she said, recalling one story she came across in an old newspaper. "I mean, it's like people complaining about some hooligans splashing water out of the horse trough," she said, laughing.
Johnson's project began in 2003 as survey by the Canton Historic Commission, the official town body—separate from the society—charged with identifying historical properties and sites in town.
While digging for every single detail that's available on homes—many of which no longer exist—can at times be painstaking, it's the small, oft-overlooked details she learns about in homes that she finds most meaningful and important.
562 Washington Street is one example.
"What I really got stuck on was one particular building and it was driving me insane," she said. "I was saying to myself, let it go. But, no, I care and I really want to know about the history of this building."
So far, Johnson discovered the site, which is now a park, used to house a showroom for a business called Danovitch Furniture. But she wants to learn more about the man who ran the store, too.
Johnson said her interest in homes started at an early age. As a young girl, in a family of seven children, she would "escape the mayhem" of a raucous household to visit open houses with her mother.
"I was fascinated by the individuality of each home," she said. "Every home has something unique about it that you wouldn't find in any other home."
Her fascination continues today. After completing the third volume on Canton historical homes, Johnson said she plans to write a volume on churches, schools and graveyards.
"If I didn't have to work for a living," she said, "I would do this—research, learn, and know."