The people of Olde Town are a sociable bunch, and it was their hospitality that persuaded Staci Swider to purchase a cottage in the downtown district.
Swider, an art teacher at Harlem High School, talked to another teacher about moving from Evans to Olde Town, where he lived. He invited her to a neighborhood gathering.
"And I met the Olde Town crowd," said Swider, who bought her house last July. "It's like a big, extended family."
Swider's cottage, which she shares with her teenage son, is filled with antiques and artwork. Paintings by local artists and many of her own works decorate the home.
Some of Swider's most recent works include paintings of downtown homes as seen through vivid colored glasses. Swider dresses them up and tells a story with each work. She will have a show at Casa Blanca Cafe in April.
A former back porch is Swider's studio, but her favorite spot at her home is her front porch.
"I sit out here all the time. I knit, read and do nothing," she said.
In the mornings, she likes to take her cup of coffee outside and "watch the neighborhood wake up. It's my most favorite thing."
Swider attended college in Philadelphia and later worked and lived in Manhattan, N.Y., as a fabric designer. She enjoys living in an urban setting, and she doesn't feel unsafe, either. Awareness is the key.
"In an urban environment, people come from other areas and are passing through. You need to be aware of who is supposed to be there," she said.
That's where the big, extended family comes in, she said. At least once a month, there is a neighborhood gathering.
Nearly 200 people attended an outdoor Super Bowl party. The annual Christmas Crawl gives Olde Town residents a chance to visit the houses of seven neighbors.
Potluck dinners, Labor Day parties and neighborhood association meetings bring folks together, she said.
Swider said she's glad she moved to Olde Town.
"My whole perspective on my life and art work has changed for the better. People who live here are so diverse and accepting of each other," she said.