Living in the Henry Faulkner House.

Artist Henry Faulkner and his beloved goat Alice in 1964.

I am living on a quaint lane in Old Town Key West for the last six years in a wooden Victorian house. My first impression walking in as a tenant-to-be was the “good feeling” that oozed out of the old Dade County Pine. Standing sturdy like a ship on land it already embarked on a journey a long time ago and I just happened to board on one of its many pit stops.  I would come across small odd clues and reminiscences hidden and cradled in wood of forgotten ghosts and on an Easter hunt I started collecting questions. Why is there different layers of bright neon green paint under the dull brown fresh painted floors? Why is there a photo of man with a goat staring at me from its buckled copper frame? Why is the house full of antique gaudy Italian carved mirrors with crumbling flying cherubs? This is how I got acquainted with Henry Faulkner, his art and his flagrant life.

Henry Faulkner was born in Egypt, Kentucky in 1924 into a sad childhood that has the makings of an Edgar Allen Poe tale. From a volatile father to the slow death of his mother his sensitive nature was formed and overcast by becoming an orphan dumped into the welfare system moving from one to the other foster family. He even had a foster-mother in the remote Appalachian that treated him like a girl that she rather wanted. His  adult life was peppered with debilitating incidents like being mugged with a hammer as an adult with a blow to the head, discrimination against being gay that included slurs and beatings and after all these setbacks any other human might have sunk into self-pity, but not Henry. His insecurities and pain poured like syrup into manifestations of poetry, art and a flamboyant lifestyle. He became best friends with Tennessee Williams, the Bertolt Brecht family and befriended Ernest Hemingway. In his Key West days he became the life and heartbeat of many parties and art gatherings.

"Awards from God" Acrylic on board, 18" x 18" by Henry Faulkner

He also become the savior of the outcast and forgotten, any animal that he could find abandoned and tortured he will rescue and become part of his own bizarre family that included Alice the goat. The rumor goes that he had painted the floors in the house green so that Alice can feel more at home “galloping  through pastures”. He wrote numerous poetry and was a prolific painter. His paintings reminds me of Marc Chagall,- see more of his paintings. He passed away in 1981 when his car was hit by a drunk driver. If you want to learn more about this amazing artist you should read The Outrageous Life of Henry Faulkner” by Charles House.

Currently this house is in the Bertolt Brecht family trust since his son Stefan and Henry Faulkner were good friends. We are the temporary caretakers of this property. It is one of the last untouched houses in Key West that stayed exactly the same for the last 5 decades without any editions or changes. It still has a well on the yard and the kitchen is separate from the house, built to prevent the spread of fire.  There was even  a couple of movies shot in the house like ‘Criss Cross with Goldie Hawn in 1992 (not a great movie. . .). I was told by a neighbor, that has lived on the lane his whole live, that Henry Faulkner and Tennessee Williams had major parties. The two will sit on the front balcony and some navy sailors will parade down the lane and only the selected ones were allowed to enter to join the party. No wonder the house has good vibes!

I cringe for the day that this house will be turned into the rest of Key West now sterile “Meringue cake” houses that are buffed and overly manicured by rich out of towners. But for now I enjoy the character of “Old Key West” the days of poets, hippies and famous writers. When I work in my studio I feel a solidarity almost as if Henry is peeking over my shoulder with that sweet ‘Mona Lisa’ smile of his.

 

About Marais

Anja Marais is an artist with interdisciplinary projects consisting of sculpture, photography, installation and film that present the idea of the perpetual outlander. For more information visit http://www.anjamarais.com
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16 Responses to Living in the Henry Faulkner House.

  1. Judy Prather says:

    I was married to Davide De Rossi, and when we divorced in 1977 he moved into the upstairs apartment at Henry Faulkner’s house on 3rd St in Lexington, KY. The main floor was filthy from farm animals and even hay on the floor! When Henry was out of town Davide would take care of his goats on his little farm. One time our two young daughters and I accompanied Davide and were so horrified at the goats when they drank each others urine!!! The farm was overgrown with debris everywhere, not a great place for 2 little girls. Davide stayed there for several years but finally moved out due to the stench.

  2. LuAnnette Turner Butler says:

    I lived near Henry’s country home on Brown’s Mill Road and saw him often, once when Tennessee Williams was visiting him and they both waved and smiled when I passed in my car. He came to my house one day to ask if I had a post hole digger he could borrow (I didn’t have one) and another time when there were puppies beside the highway (Leestown Pike) and he wondered if those were ours. He was worried they would be hit by a car. He probably took them home with him to keep them safe.

  3. T Ray says:

    Henry lived across the street from us on Third st in Lexington. I did work cleaning up the basement in his house. When the goat was sick I took care of it and her baby while staying at a farm my dad managed. Henry later bought a small farm on Browns Mill Rd.

  4. Marais says:

    Hi Dirk, what an amazing story. You are right Peacon Lane used to be “Grunt bone Alley”. Apparently they cleaned fish at the the end of the lane when the ocean still reached that close. After the Navy added the landfill there is now a couple of blocks between Peacon Lane and the water. Over the years they have changed the name after the owner of the Octagon house on Eaton that faces Peacon Lane. Unfortunately I only have a couple of pictures of Henry Faulkner but if I ever come across some more I will post them. Every single person that I have met that known Henry always spoke of his kindness and generosity.

  5. Dirk Grunwald says:

    Thank you so much for posting that photo! I lived in that house in the early ’70’s — I might mis-remember some things since I was only 10-11 years old. I was a son of Grudrun Starcken, who lived in Henry’s house in Lexington. I was a “childhood abducteee” — part of a divorce and parenting dispute at the time. After my mom abducted my brother and myself, we wound up moving to Key West. I live in the house on the first floor, but I remember the road being called “grouper alley” rather than pecan lane, for some reason. There was a wood-working shop and grocery/goods store at the end of the alley. I used to go to the charter fish docks and get the fish that people didn’t want & brought it home for dinner. I remember that I had a pet octopus and later a dog (an Airedale) named King. When we first moved into the house I remember asking my mom why Mr. Faulkner had pictures of naked men on the mantle, but the we were welcomed into his house and were family while we lived there. If you have any extra pictures, I’d love to see them — my mother died 3 years ago, and I have few pictures or remembrances from that time.

  6. Dan Lathwell says:

    henry found us in a bar, drawn to peter beautiful boy that he was. took us to his home sheltered us. insisted we bathe while he checked us out. introduced us to tennese w. had running battles with ex’s in the street. gentle and friendly, true wildman character. Had photos of donkey hung sailors, fabulous weird paintings and a million frames, cats. wild back yard, more cats. then said enough you gotta go we left. a twenty yr old travelers intro to KW. still remember, love henry. looked him up after all the years and here he is forever.

  7. I am glad to have found this. My grandparents lived across the street from him on Peacon Land (321) and I remember him so well. One day one of my cousins and I jumped his fence because his german shepard had babies. Well the mother came after me for picking up her pupps and bit me in my side. Henry (aka-Juicey Junior) felt so bad he would come and visit me everyday to make sure I was OK. My grandmother was of Cuban decent and one of their traditions were to leave the front door open, well Alice the goat would just make herself at home and come into the house. She even ate one of her table clohes that she had crocheted.

  8. I am glad to have found this. My grandparents lived across the street from him on Peacon Land (321)in Key West and I remember him so well. One day one of my cousins and I jumped his fence because his german shepard had babies. Well the mother came after me for picking up her pupps and bit me in my side. Henry (aka-Juicey Junior) felt so bad he would come and visit me everyday to make sure I was OK. My grandmother was of Cuban decent and one of their traditions were to leave the front door open, well Alice the goat would just make herself at home and come into the house. She even ate one of her table clohes that she had crocheted.

  9. I just read a book about an Englishwoman who inherited a house in Sicily just after WWII. She received many guests there, and one of them was Henry Faulkner. The name of the book is – not surprisingly – “A House in Sicily”. Author is Daphny Phelps. She describes many characters in her book: cooks, gardeners, the head of the local maffia, a surprisingly charming Robin Hood type of a man, and then also Henry Faulkner and the menagerie he travelled with. He was indeed a very eccentric person, but she took a real liking to him and apparently visited him once in the house in Kentucky . She talks about his animals, his friends, his history as a foster child, his generosity (he left his houses to her). He spent a lot of time in Casa Cuseni and collected a lot of “things” in Sicily. I bet ya that is also where he found those antique gaudy Italian carved mirrors with crumbling flying cherubs that Anja Marais talks about! I read it as an audio-book, downloaded from the local library. A great tip for anyone who does a lot of commuting!

  10. Brenda Thomas says:

    I lived next door to Henry on Arlington Avenue in Lexington, KY in 1967. I was nine years old in 1967 and if I can recall correctly we lived there for 2 or 3 years. I recall Henry’s goats, and his many many cats. He like to sun bathe in his front yard and he also liked to paint there. He would have his easle set up in the front yard and would often have company there as he was painting. My father was killed in a car wreck while we lived next to Henry and I recall him coming to the door, crying, and handing my mom a package of cookies for us. He left quite an impression on me and I’ve found myself always drawn to artists, poets, and musicians and wonder if he played a part in that attraction. Thank you for writing this.

  11. A friend and I spent several days with Henry and his menagerie in spring of 1965, after hitchhiking from the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, during spring break. The visit was extraordinary, and I will never forget Henry’s humor, talent, and hospitality. I’m saddened to learn of his tragic death. At the end of our visit, he drove my friend and me up to Fort Lauderdale in his battered station wagon, and even bought us a rotisserie chicken. What a wild several days! Rest in peace, Henry.

  12. I just found your blog after a You know you are from Lexington, Ky, if …. discussion on Facebook. I was one of many friends and admirers of Henry’s in the early 70s, when his eccentricities and his artistry were so appealing. I spent time at his house on 3rd Street, with is many cats. Sarah Goodwin, Atlanta

  13. Marais says:

    Mary you would be glad to know that the outdoor shower is still there. Very little has changed..

  14. Mary Prada Vaiani says:

    I lived in that house in 1985. My son was born there. I loved the outdoor shower. Thanks for writing this.

  15. Dwight Coleman says:

    I was a friend of Henry from 1964- 69. He would visit me at the flower gardens at UK, and have me cut flowers for him. He promised to paint me a still of my favorite flowers,marigolds, but never painted it as far as I know. I lost contact with him, and never recieved my painting,
    One day when he was visiting, his goats escaped from his old station wagon, and came charging into the garden after him. I’m sure it was hilarious, watching us chase the goats back to the car!

  16. Pingback: Jackie K. Cooper: Her Latest Novel Proves Jodi Picoult Rules! - Top News, Music, and Sports - The Blog Conglomerate

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