A gem of charming Victoria history, hidden away in the midst of an industrial area, has been taken on by a new organization excited about expanding the experience for visitors.
Point Ellice House, a provincial historic site overlooking the Gorge Waterway, was constructed during 1860s and is among the oldest homes in the city.
The O’Reilly family owned the home for 108 years before turning the house and its contents into a museum and selling it to the Province of British Columbia. The house was turned over with a century’s worth of O’Reilly family possessions including furniture, dishes, luggage, letters, pictures, paintings, musical instruments, clothing, and more.
While similar homes and properties surrounding it were demolished as Victoria grew, Point Ellice House – with its contents and its gardens – was protected.
Point Ellice House was designated a National Historic Site in 1966 and became a Provincial Historic Site in 1975. The house is also listed on the City of Victoria’s heritage registry.
Formerly operated by the Point Ellice House Preservation Society until the agreement ended in 2018, the Vancouver Island Local History Society has now been chosen to manage the site through a request for proposal managed by BC Bid.
The Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and the Vancouver Island Local History Society have entered into a five-year agreement for the management of Point Ellice House.
“The Vancouver Island Local History Society looks forward to connecting people to the history of Vancouver Island and British Columbia through the compelling historic setting provided by Point Ellice House,” said Kelly Black, executive director of the Vancouver Island Local History Society.
“We are also looking forward to strengthening the connections between the house and other businesses in the Rock Bay neighbourhood to encourage increased public recreation and use of the site.”
The society will take care of programming, caretaking, public access, and operational services at the site.
“We are working with site managers to find ways of enhancing reconciliation with First Nations,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Peter O’Reilly, the original O’Reilly who first moved into Point Ellice House in 1867, served as an Indian Reserve Commissioner and was tasked with setting out and, in many cases, reducing the size of reserve lands for First Nations across the Province.
The society is reaching out to local First Nations to help tell the story of First Nations use of the site.