Feature Story

The Ward

Jimmy's Crack Corners
not-hot seat
broken window in January
Detail: Jimmy's Crack Corners
covered bridge
under the bridge
graffiti at the Ukranian church
light at the end of the tunnel

I live in St. Patrick's Ward in Guelph, more affectionately and simply known as The Ward. I've also seen it called the Two Rivers Neighbourhood. The real estate agents call it "up and coming," but some pockets are still resolutely down and out. We live on the western edge, on the posher side where people are fixing up the classic old houses and where a beautiful old factory building has been converted to trendy condos with exposed beams and bricks, huge windows and a huger price per square foot. A bit east of us it gets more industrial and more depressed.

The Ward very much has working class, immigrant roots, especially Italians, I've heard. Indeed, the Italian Canadian Club is just a few blocks from us and you can tell the Italians' houses because they almost always have a huge vegetable garden in the sunniest part of their yard, and have often added concrete roman architectural details like columns and lions to the otherwise Edwardian homes.

The first time I heard of The Ward, I was in first year university, and I'd met a guy at a bar who had mafia ambitions. He told me that anytime you walk in The Ward you are always protected because no crime happens that isn't sanctioned by the mafia. I thought he was full of it but since then I've discovered that it appears to be relatively common knowledge that Guelph is a mafia town. (God I hope I don't get offed for writing this!) Mostly though, the mafiosos are retired, which is why it's fairly quiet.

I have had no mafia experiences, at least none that I know of. Except one night, many years ago, I walked out of a downtown bar at closing time and saw two men straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, wearing white shirts, skinny black ties and sunglasses (at night!), just sitting there in the front seat of a big fat boat of a retro car. I quickly looked away, telling myself not to notice anything that they might think I could tell the police.

Supposedly Guelph now has a major crack problem, especially since the mafia has really slowed down in recent years. Local city counsellors have said one of the biggest problems facing The Ward is the proliferation of crack houses in it. Someone told me that shoes dangling from power lines are used to mark crack houses, and certainly I've seen a number of dangling shoes outside rundown rental places. One of them is even for sale - yes you too could own your very own crack house for just over $300K CDN. One nearby resident used an abandoned storefront to speak out on the problem he saw outside his door with a sign that said: "Jimmy's Crack Corners and I don't care. Home to: Earl of Hurl, Duke of Puke, Mr. Scum."

Nevertheless, I love our neighbourhood. It's the cheapest neighbourhood this close to downtown, it's right next to a big park by the river with its covered wooden bridge, canoe rentals and walking/biking trails. It's also a pretty mixed neighbourhood, with retired folks, lots of students and youngish family types, and partly industrial (which I'm actually not that keen on but it makes for cool photos). I like the mixture of people who live here (yes even mullet man) and I like that I find images like these so close to my home. These photos were all taken within a few minutes' walk of my house.

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—The JPG team

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