Near the playing fields of Lambrick Park in Gordon Head sits a small house, framed by a white picket fence. It was built when Vancouver Island was a colony and the Fraser River gold rush was fueling land speculation in Saanich.
Built in 1859-60 for Captain Charles Dodd as a country retreat on 276 acres of wilderness, Dodd House is the oldest surviving home in Saanich and the municipality’s first designated heritage building.
Dodd was an officer in the Hudson’s Bay Company and had arrived on the NW Coast from England in 1836 aboard the Beaver. He served as second mate on the voyage and would later become the ship’s captain. While at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River in 1842, Dodd married Grace McTavish, the youngest daughter of John George McTavish, a high-ranking HBC officer, and Nancy McKenzie (also known by her Indigenous name Matooskie). The ceremony was conducted by a Catholic missionary and witnessed by James Douglas.
Dodd’s fur-trade activities took him to remote forts in the north, and the family’s first child was born at Fort Stikine in 1843. Other children soon followed at Fort Simpson and Fort Victoria. By 1858 the Dodds lived in a large house on Cormorant Street but when the gold rush transformed Victoria into a tent city of 20,000 miners, the family retreated to the quiet of Gordon Head.
On the southwest corner of Section 84 they constructed a simple one-storey house, complete with a parlour, sitting room and two bedrooms. Redwood tongue-and-groove boards were brought from California to line the interior walls and the 12-foot ceilings.
In 1860, tragedy struck with the sudden death of Charles Dodd. With the Dodd sons then sent to England to be educated and the eldest daughters married, Grace was left alone at the house. In 1863 she was fined in court for harbouring five deserters from the British ship Haversham at the property. The following year she married an Englishman named Alfred Gorridge who had come to Vancouver Island in 1851 aboard the Tory as a labourer for the HBC. He had earlier been charged with the drunken assault of a Saanich man and after his marriage to Grace attempted to sell the property held in trust for the Dodd children.
Following Grace’s death in 1881, the Gordon Head property was subdivided. The house retained 10 acres and became home to the Pollock family in 1891. The Pollocks lived in Dodd House for more than 25 years and were among the residents to petition for the incorporation of Saanich in 1906.
During the Depression and Second World War, the house was occupied by the Mellin family. It was during their occupancy that running water, electricity and phone service came to Dodd House. Further subdivisions left the colonial-era home clinging to a small lot, surrounded by larger homes.
In 1978, Dodd House was threatened with demolition and moved to Lambrick Park for preservation. The house is now managed by the Saanich Heritage Foundation and rental income helps to pay for its maintenance.
Caroline Duncan is the archivist at Saanich Archives. You can explore Saanich history online at saanicharchives.ca.