A thousand years ago, 1978 to be exact, I traded a suburban apartment complex we called "Plywood Village" for a first-floor apartment in a rehabbed 19th-century hotel in Hartford, Conn., a few blocks from the state Capitol.
I'm not sure who had been living in the Hotel Capitol before the rehab, but they likely were not well-to-do. I later completed a demographic study of the building on the way to a doctorate in history I was working toward but didn't finish because I moved to Philadelphia.
Hartford residents from the 1920s through the 1950s were primarily blue-collar workers in the insurance industry or the factories - Colt, Underwood, Weed (which made Columbia bicycles), and the like.
By the 1960s, they were retirees, reflecting the decline of manufacturing and the aging of the city population, which had gone from one of the nation's richest in the decades after the Civil War to one where three out of 10 were living below the poverty line.
It was a scenario common in many cities in the northeastern United States and the Rust Belt, but I'm most familiar with Connecticut, my native state, which has always treated its urban areas as pariahs.
The 1970s was when we began hearing about gentrification. Although my time at the Hotel Capitol didn't put me in that category, there were people buying 19th-century brownstones on nearby streets and rehabbing them, displacing the mostly poor residents who had been holding on there.
Sort of human bookmarks in the urban-history encyclopedia.
If any of this sounds familiar, it's because it's happening today in Philadelphia, at least in the neighborhoods that surround Center City.
But it's not new here, either, if you recall the changes experienced along Spring Garden Street and in the Art Museum area in the 1970s.
I was briefly engaged to a woman who chose a master's degree at Temple over me in 1975, but still could wrap me around her ring finger.
She asked me to help her move to an apartment on Corinthian Avenue, which was filled with rowhouses spewing plaster dust and demolition material at least 18 hours a day.
You could pick up a shell for $4,000 then, and a house in move-in condition was $28,000.
Some of you reading this are probably looking for a time machine, right?
My first house in Queen Village - in March 1982 - cost $63,500, with $10,000 down, and the people who lived there for 50 years were telling me I'd paid too much for it.
Looking back, they were right, of course.
The current housing boom in Philadelphia is not going down well with a lot of people. You know who you are - I hear the rant about rich suburbanites every time I mention "tax abatement."
The arguments used by opponents of gentrification in the 1970s are being repeated, while proponents of "growth" ask if people would prefer a return of the days of decline that began in the 1950s.
The Philadelphia Fed has produced a study of the effects of gentrification in the city. Here's the link so you can read it yourself: http://tinyurl.com/qzmdwk6.
There is a lack of significant evidence that direct displacement of vulnerable residents was more prevalent in gentrifying neighborhoods than in neighborhoods that did not gentrify.
There is significant evidence of indirect displacement as gentrifying neighborhoods became less accessible to vulnerable populations over time.
There is confirmation of the assumption that vulnerable residents who moved out of gentrifying neighborhoods faced a greater risk of moving to neighborhoods with less opportunity.
You be the judge.