Recounted: The house at 4195 West 14th Avenue

12 Apr 2018 2:51 PM | Anonymous

From an undated speech, included in "Speeches by Arthur Erickson" (University of British Columbia Library): "The house was purchased in 1957 for $11,000. What attracted me to it was the garden—the whole of the property (66x120) was to the south of the house, since the house was on the lane, and had been developed as a colourful English herbaceous border garden concealing a vegetable and raspberry patch at the southern end. The house itself had been built about 40 years earlier as a garage to be lived in while the main house was builtproperly, on the centre of the property. It was temporarily converted into a dwelling with a small lean-to and divided into a set of miniature rooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, front hall, bedroom and bathroom. But the owners never built the main house. Instead they added a single garage next door which, when I bought it, was used for storage.

"I set a destructive Irish sailor-handyman to taking down all the partitions, arriving only in time to save the collapse of the roof by propping it up with a wood and terra cotta Ionian column I had retrieved from the demolition of a former residence. That was the first conversion—as a one-roomed house furnished with marble slabs from the urinals of the old Vancouver Hotel and seating made from the straw benches of the former trolley cars of Vancouver, gold dragon's-blood Chinese paper lacquered into antiquity with many layers of pigmented lacquer and a teak cabinet kitchen. The garage became a guest room for visiting guests but only in summer for there was no heat.

"The garden changed more dramatically. In the second year long grass covered the property since it was never cut and the English garden struggled through the grass as if the place had been romantically deserted. But the third year the flowers no longer appeared, except for the forlorn roses hanging off the trellises and the grass was too long to even scythe. The only solution was to bring in a bulldozer and use it for contouring the lot to obscure the only disturbing view from the house—that down the length of the lot to the ugly brown shingle arched front porch of the neighbor across the street to the south …" 

AE in his living room at 4195 West 14th Avenue, 1972
Photo credit: Selwyn Pullan