The House of All Sorts
The Back Staircase
“Many a winter night Punk [my dog] and I crept down the long outside stair … sometimes crunching snow on every step, sometimes slipping through the rain.
The corners of the stairways were black. Sometimes we met puffs of wind, sometimes wreaths of white mist. It was comfortable to rest a hand on Punk [and envy] his indifference to dark, cold, fear.”
Emily Carr (1871 – 1945) artist, author and lover of nature is a Canadian icon. Her family home is just around the corner at 207 Government Street known as the Carr House. It is a National and Provincial Historic Site and is open as an interpretive centre to her life, art and writing.
Emily Carr traveled to study art in San Francisco, London and Paris. She lived for a time in Vancouver trying to establish herself as a professional artist. When this failed, she chose to build her own house on original family land left to her by her father Richard.
It is here she sought to fulfil her vision of independence from financial worry by having her own flat with a studio upstairs and two income providing flats on the main floor.
Her “Hill House” was completed in 1913, over budget and just as the Great War (WW1) was about to begin.
The resulting hard financial times combined with the challenges of looking after guests, tenants and the house itself had only just begun.
Despite her struggles and while for a period not as prolific or inspired, Emily created many great works of art here.
She could be found in her garden, firing up her kiln for her hand made “Klee Wyck” pottery. She could also be found in her attic studio beneath her beloved painted eagles which “made strong talk for her”.
Through the house she sought what refuge she could and here and there remain remainders – hooks for chairs, nails for hanging her paintings and supplies, handwritten notes detailing her pets and on the wall the footprints of her dearest pet, her monkey “Woo”.
During her time as owner and landlady, Emily devised many different spaces and ways to house her tenants – each with their own different ways.
Emily the writer took pleasure and solace in writing her book she renamed “The House of All Sorts”. The house itself and the book are tributes to her home, her life and indominable spirit.
“The House of All Sorts was at least honest … I went up a long steep stair to my door. The door opened and gulped me up”.