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Heritage Register
James Bay

642-646 Simcoe Street
Hill House/House of All Sorts


Built 1913
Heritage-Registered/ Provincial Historic Site

For: Emily Carr

Architect: John Wilson
Contractors: J. Smith & T. Richards

642 Simcoe

ARCHITECTURE:

This symmetrical, two-storey, side-gabled British Arts & Crafts house has shed-roofed, through-the-roof wall dormers on either side of a gabled box bay on the upper floor above the porch. The bay is supported on two bracketed, inset porch posts, which are echoed in the corner posts of the side porches. The bracketed side porches at either end of the front façade lead to recessed entries. The remaining slightly-sloped, concrete stair balustrades on the centre sit on the inside of the porch posts. A shed-roofed, recessed, sleeping porch is on the second floor at the left rear. There is a Palladian window in the front gable. The outer window casings on the front and sides of the house are tapered. The house was originally shingled, but the main floor was stuccoed more than 50 years ago.

This house and sister Edith’s at 231 St. Andrews St were built on part of the cow yard of the original Carr estate, behind the family home at 207 Government St; with sister Alice’s house and schoolroom at 218-220 St. Andrews St, built on part of the old vegetable garden. These houses comprise a significant historical enclave.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

Emily Carr’s Hill House, now known as House of All Sorts, was designed as two rental apartments on the main floor and her home and studio upstairs. Emily commissioned British-trained architect John Wilson (645 Battery St, James Bay; he was recommended by an in-law), a neighbour at 136 (140) St. Andrews St, to design it based on her ideas. The process of building a house proved to be a disagreeable and expensive experience for Emily, due to difficulties she had with her architect. The unexpected costs put her in debt, and she took out a $5,000 mortgage from her sister Alice. In 1914 she divided her own apartment into suites, and slept and painted in the attic. (Two large Indian Eagles which she painted on the underside of the roof are now protected as a Provincial Heritage Site.) In 1916 she converted all the suites into rooms for boarders and in 1918 she moved into a tent in the back yard, and cooked the meals in a lean-to. She grew a large garden on the vacant lot next door and sold produce to earn extra money; she also raised chickens and rabbits and later, English sheep dogs. About 1925-26 she stopped taking boarders. She lived in this house until 1936, when financial hardship forced her to trade the house for another on Oscar St, which she rented out for $25 per month, and she became a tenant herself at 316 Beckley Av for $12 per month.

Emily, born in Victoria in 1871, was the youngest daughter of Richard and Emily (Saunders) Carr. Except for her years away studying art, she lived in James Bay all her life and became a world-renowned artist, author, and teacher. After her mother died in 1886 and her father in 1888, Emily came under her sister Edith’s guardianship. She was able to convince Edith to let her study art in San Francisco in 1891-93, and later in London in 1901 and Paris in 1910-11. However, Emily felt that old school methods could not satisfactorily represent her Canada, and she developed her own style, which was initially unpopular. Emily did less painting when she was running her boarding house, although she did use Alice’s schoolroom as her studio c.1919-22. She also took trips to the Coast and Cariboo regions of BC. She was popular amongst Aboriginal groups, and spent 50 years documenting their lives in paint and written word. She was affectionately known as Klee Wyck, the “Laughing One.”

Emily Carr’s work remained relatively unknown until 1927 when Eric Brown, director of the National Art Gallery in Ottawa, came and selected 17 paintings for an exhibition. His encouragement and that of Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven inspired Emily to continue painting, and she eventually became one of Canada’s best-known living artists. With encouragement from her friend Ira Dilworth, Emily wrote several books, including Klee Wyck (1941), The Book of Small (1942), and The House of All Sorts (1944). From 1940-45 Emily lived with her sister Alice at 218-220 St. Andrews St when she wasn’t in the hospital or a nursing home with serious health problems. Emily died in 1945 aged 73, in St. Mary’s Priory Guest House in what is now the James Bay Inn, at 270 Government St.

Some info from Maria Tippett, Emily Carr: A Biography, Toronto, Oxford UP, 1979


OTHER OCCUPANTS:

1936-50: William Findlay (b. Moose Jaw, SK c.1884-1956) and Susan (née Bestall, b. Ireland 1879-1956). Susan came to Canada in the early 1880s. William was a CPR ticket agent in Moose Jaw. About 1907 he transferred to Vancouver and became a BC Electric salesman. He came to Victoria in 1926, was a member of the BCE Quarter-Century Club and retired as a BCE executive in 1946. They later moved to Vancouver.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register



• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Two: James Bay


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