Umbrella House has come a long way from the late 1980s, when a handful of squatters broke into what was then an abandoned city-owned tenement house and claimed it as their home. Today, most of the early homesteaders remain and the building has been converted into a co-op that operates like many others, though with a more utopian and collectivist ethos.
On a recent afternoon Parker Pracjek, a college administrator and adjunct professor who has lived in Umbrella House for a decade, was on the roof, discussing the building’s newest undertaking: an 820-square-foot vegetable garden tended by volunteers. The garden provides fresh produce and herbs for the 32 or so inhabitants of the 18 apartments, as well as a respite from some of the rigors of city life.
“After a morning spent in a piece of nature, I just might be able to face the concrete and the throngs of people below,” Ms. Pracjek said. “We don’t always think about the grounding or sanity that comes from picking one’s own meal from a garden.”
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