Emily Carr’s Victoria: A 150th Anniversary Tour of the Artist’s Hometown Through Her Own Eyes

On the 150th anniversary of Emily Carr’s birth, we revisit the beginning of Victoria – the artist’s childhood city – through her own eyes, with a selection of passages from her books, including The Book of Small and Growing Pains

On the 150th anniversary of Emily Carr’s birth, we revisit the first Victoria – the artist’s childhood city – through her own eyes, with a selection of passages from her books, including The children’s book and Growing pains.

We provided contemporary photographs for some things that haven’t changed much, and historical images for those that have changed – the James Bay Bridge that Emily used to cross regularly, for example, has since disappeared. long, replaced by a roadway after the flats. were filled for the construction of the Empress hotel. But the church his family attended, the Church of Our Lord, still stands near what was once the mouth of the apartments.

The passages were selected by Jan Ross, the former curator of Emily Carr House, who edited them for clarity and brevity.

Just a note: in her writings, Emily often referred to herself as “Petite”.

1) Emily Carr House (her mother’s bedroom, where she was born, is top left)

“I was born during a snowstorm in mid-December; the north wind was howling and biting. Unlike at the beginning, I kept the family going all day. A row of sparrows, swollen with cold, sat on the balcony railing in front of Mother’s window, guarding against the danger of being swept away in the blown snow piled up against the window. The ice cubes hung, the wind moaned, I was dragging. At three in the morning, I sent my father to plow on foot in the knee-deep snow to look for Nurse Randal.

– From Mother, Growing pains

2) Mrs. McConnell’s Farm (Michigan and what was then Birdcage Walk)

“Mrs. McConnell was a gorgeous woman; I loved her very much indeed. She had a voice so loud you could hear her on Toronto Street, Princess Ave and Michigan Street all at the same time. She was so busy with everyone. her kids, cows, pigs, geese and chickens that she didn’t have time to run after things, so she stood in the middle of her place and screamed and it all rushed… Something was still running towards Mrs. McConnell She sort of laid down on top of whatever was going on in the place and took care of it.

– From Carr Street to James Bay, The children’s book

3) James Bay Bridge (now Causeway)

“The James Bay district, where my father’s belongings were located, was south of town. When people said they were going to James Bay, they meant they were going to cross a wooden bridge that spanned the James Bay mud flats on stilts. At high tide, the sea flooded under the bridge and covered the apartments. It receded again as the tide receded with lots of kisses and noises against the mud around the bridge supports, and left a dreadful smell behind that annoyed the nose but was supposed to be healthy.

– James Bay and Dallas Road, The children’s book

4) Father’s Warehouse / Store (1107 Wharf St.)

“My father was a wholesale importer of groceries, wines and cigars. His store was located on Wharf Street, among other wholesalers. The part of Wharf Street where Father’s Store Street was had only one side. In front of the store was a large hole where the shore of the shore had been dug to build docks and sheds…. Across the hole in Wharf Street stood customs, near the water’s edge. Made of red bricks, it was three stories tall… very dignified.

– From the father’s store, The children’s book

5) Government Street at Christmas

“On Christmas Eve my dad took us into town to see the shops light up. Each lamppost had a tree attached to it… The streets of Victoria were dark; it made the stores all the brighter. The windows were decorated with fake snow made of cotton and diamond dust. The dry goods stores didn’t have much Christmas to display, except for the red flannel and… fur sleeves and tippets. […]

“These are the grocery stores that Merry Christmassed the hardest on. At Mr. Saunders, the grocer’s window was a real Santa Claus grinding coffee. The wheel was bigger than him. He had a long beard and moved his hands and head… In the window all around Santa Claus were candies, bunches of raisins, nuts and candied fruits, in addition to long walking sticks of candy in the house. mint… .. Food stores put an end to the city, and after that came Johnson Street and Chinatown, which was full of pitch black. Here we made a U-turn towards James Bay, ready to go to bed.

– From Christmas, The children’s book

6) Church of the Lord at Christmas

“The whole week before Christmas we had been in and out of some kind of hole under the Reformed Church. [of Our Lord], sewing pine twigs onto long strips of brown paper. These were to be placed around the stained glass windows of the church, which were very high. It was cold under the church and poorly lit. We all sneezed and searched for old boards to put under our feet on the dirt floor under the table where we sat pricking ourselves with holly and stuck with pine gum…. Anything unusual was fun for us kids. We felt important to help decorate the church.

– From Christmas, The children’s book

7) Hôtel Driard (rue View)

“Victoria’s greatest grandeur was the Driard Hotel; all important visitors were staying at the Driard. Sitting in plush crimson armchairs in huge front windows and staring at the stark and empty drab walls on the opposite side of View Street so close to the Driard Hotel they squinted at the beholder, only to be watched by the Victoria locals as they hurried up and down the narrow View Street, which had no view, was surely worth a visit to the capital.

“The Driard was a brick building with large doors that swayed and squeaked. It was red inside and out. There were plush red rugs, sofas and chairs covered in red plush and velvet curtains, red too. All its red sweetness permeated and embraced the sounds and smells. Its whole interior was a tangle of suffocation… when you left the hotel you were so drenched in its heaviness that you could have been a Driard sofa.

– Of grown up, The children’s book

8) Beacon Hill Park

“Are we going to have a picnic?” … I was so proud. Mom, who was always shared equally between us, gave me a whole afternoon of herself!

“It was the time of wild lilies. We walked through our garden, cow yard and pastures, and came to our field of wild lilies… Between our lily field and Beacon Hill Park there was nothing but a black tarred fence … I walked with Mother beyond the limits of our very closed childhood. Stakes and snake fences had always separated us from the great world. Beacon Hill Park was exactly as it had always been since the beginning of time, neither cleared nor pruned. Mother and I squeezed through a crack in its greenery… soon we came to a small grassy opening, filled with sunshine and we were sitting under an orange bush, white with flowers and deliciously sweet… .Our spade -nique that day was perfect. For once I was Mum’s eldest, youngest, her companion-child …

“It wasn’t until shortly after our picnic that Mum died.

– From Mother, Growing pains

9) Ross Bay Cemetery

“The old cemetery on Quadra Street was a lovely place, but now it was full as the law allowed. So they put a chain and a padlock around the gate stakes to keep the dead in and the living out, and dedicated a new piece of cleared land at Ross Bay for Victoria’s burial. It was a treeless, windswept place with gravelly soil and bright sunshine. One side of the “new cemetery” was bounded by the sea. The other side was bounded by the highway, over which periodically passed a noisy rural tram line.

In 1886, Carr’s mother passed away and her father brought the children together to choose the family burial ground, which Carr describes as the first time her father allowed his children to have a say in family affairs.

“I choose what seemed to me to be the only comfortable place in all the gloom and the cold. There are two willows growing on it, the only trees in the whole new cemetery. It sits in a little hollow right in the middle of the Ross Bay curve. The gulls arrive from one end of Ross Bay, circle the two willows and start again, uttering their cries towards the sea.

“Father frowned. “I don’t like that low-lying trough, kid. It’s wet, unhealthy. “Do the dead fear humidity?” ” [Carr wonders].

“Father wanted the best for mom. High, dry, healthy. He bought on the ridge. He leaned a little heavily on Small’s shoulder as he climbed the slight slope as if feeling the weight of his three twenty and ten years old. He saw Small turn around to take a last look at the two willows, once he made up his mind. “Kid, you got your tree love from me. He smiled at the little girl, sensing her disappointment.

“On the ridge, the wind was still blowing and the sun was still scorching and breaking the grass between the graves…. Seagulls never bothered to come this far inland to mourn the dead, nor were there any drooping willow branches to sweep the graves. Small wondered if the dead felt healthier up there than in the hollow.

– Family intrigue, This and that: Emily’s Lost Stories Carr, edited by Ann-Lee Switzer.

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