Jane at Home: A Peek at the Life of Jane Jacobs

CC BY 2.0. Jane Jacobs' desk/ Lloyd Alter

The Smithsonian in Washington has Julia Child's kitchen behind glass for all to see. The same should be done somewhere in Toronto for the wonderful collection that her son, Jim Jacobs and Caitlin Broms-Jacobs have curated for a too brief exhibition at Toronto's Urbanspace gallery, open for a week and closing on Sunday. It is a little gem of a show. They describe it as "An exhibit celebrating the life and personal history of Jane Jacobs, featuring rare and never-before-seen items from her estate."


Urban Space Gallery/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It is small, in a building she probably loved, 401 Richmond, that has been covered in TreeHugger before. There are so many connections; it is owned by Margie Zeidler, the daughter of architect Eb Zeidler, who employed Jane Jacobs' husband Bob.


buttons/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Most of these buttons are from Toronto and I probably owned many of the same ones, every important election and political battle.

first copy

First copy of Death and Life/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Here is the very first copy of Death and Life; the cover has got a bit ratty. She was excited and said "look! It's a real book!"


Win with Willkie/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

This is fun; she did not think that Roosevelt should run for a third term and supported Willkie, who she thought would be a terrible president.

gin and tonic

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

So I am going to pour one of her favourite tipples and raise a glass to Jane Jacobs, who has made such a difference in the lives of architects and planners everywhere.

jane jam

Jane's jam/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Charles Marohn writes that "The core of Jane Jacobs' writing is not about what to do, it is about how to think about what to do. Her greatest contribution is not an appreciation for sidewalks, parks and density but a way to think about complex systems. She was an intellectual giant." But she also made jam and cookies. That's what's so wonderful about this exhibition.

Jane at home

Jane at Home scan of cover/CC BY 2.0

The Estate of Jane Jacobs has produced a lovely catalogue of the show with interviews and commentary; You can probably get a copy from them at estateofjanejacobs@gmail.com.