If These Walls Could Talk

Where the door was always open

An illustration of a brick house with a front wood deck.

Illustration by Wendy Treverton

There are still remnants of “The Frontenac Crew” at 273 Frontenac Street, if you know what to look for.

The fire-engine-red paint on the brick façade, for instance, now wearing away at the edges: it was part of the Crew’s futile effort to spruce up the old home during their 2004–2006 residency.

Or the handmade signpost bracket jutting out between the two upstairs windows, now missing the spray-painted plywood sign that branded the home as theirs. And is it possible the awkward back bedroom upstairs is still painted the “electric bubblegum shade of pink” applied by the Crew’s lone female member back in 2004?

If the Crew left a mark on 273 Frontenac, the house left a much bigger mark on everyone within its walls during those two years, the former roommates will tell you. Never mind that in the days of the Crew there were sticky windows, threadbare carpets, and a kitchen sink that fell through the counter under a load of dirty dishes. It is true that 273 Frontenac was not perfect. But it is equally true that it was also a boisterous, warm, and welcoming home, a crucible in which lifelong friendships were forged.

“We’ve kept in touch across six marriages, innumerable dogs, plenty of kids,” says Brad Hammond (Artsci’07). “Annual cottage get-togethers, road trips for birthdays, dinners with significant others. I think we’ve all stood up for each other at different combinations of our weddings.”

“It probably would have been more efficient to have a revolving door at the front. You certainly never knew – in a good way – any day of the week who might be there, why, what was going on, and what would happen.”

Brad Hammond (Artsci’07)

“I lived in four different houses in my time at Queen’s, and [273 Frontenac] by far stuck out,” says Steve Sylvestre (Sc’06). “It was the camaraderie that added the unique element to it.”

The camaraderie wasn’t just among the home’s tenants, however. All of their friends counted 273 Frontenac as a kind of second home, a place where the door was always open and the company always invigorating.

“It probably would have been more efficient to have a revolving door at the front,” says Mr. Hammond. “You certainly never knew – in a good way – any day of the week who might be there, why, what was going on, and what would happen.”

“Everybody was welcome,” says Collin Goodlet (Artsci/Ed’07). The roommates, he says, kept their empty bottles in the front hallway “and there were several homeless men who would come in on a regular basis, grab the bottles, and leave. We would wave at them.”

Dan Robson (Artsci/Ed’07), now an award-winning journalist and best-selling author (Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend), was among the throng embraced by 273 Frontenac in those years, visiting frequently enough to become a kind of honorary member of the Crew. Robson says he couldn’t imagine living in the old house – he had upscale digs on Princess Street – but loved to visit.

“There was always somebody that I didn’t know there, but quickly became familiar with,” says Mr. Robson. “It was always the place where you’d meet somebody new.”

Mr. Hammond was in student politics and Mr. Goodlet seemed to know half the student body, says Mr. Robson.

When two roommates moved out in the summer of 2005, Mr. Hammond and Mr. Goodlet didn’t leave their replacements to chance. Mr. Hammond had heard of two engineering students who would suit the house’s vibe perfectly and invited them for a visit.

“We were courting them, so we made an epic seven-layer nacho dip and that’s what sealed the deal,” says Mr. Goodlet.

Mr. Sylvestre was one of those prospective roommates.

“I was actually in a home that was much better and was about to try and persuade them to move [there] … But there was this immediate friendly, warm, and welcoming atmosphere that they had. It didn’t make any sense to me to try and break it up. There was just something that drew you in.”

For two years, at least, 273 Frontenac was something more than any of its shortcomings, says Mr. Hammond.

“That academic and social experience of living together was really formative. It’s a common touchstone that we’ve been able to keep building on year after year, life change after life change.”

Tell us about the University District house you lived in and the memories you made.

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