Kelly Black, executive director of Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens, is working on years of deferred maintenance around the house and property. This original garden pathway was uncovered two years ago after decades of overgrowth buried it. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Kelly Black, executive director of Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens, is working on years of deferred maintenance around the house and property. This original garden pathway was uncovered two years ago after decades of overgrowth buried it. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Point Ellice House in Victoria looks to patch up during pandemic

Woodpeckers, leaks and rot keep museum head busy

It’s been two years since the Point Ellice House museum and heritage gardens reopened with a Visitors Centre in place of the old tea house, and there’s still work to be done, says the executive director.

Historian Kelly Black has been at the helm of the 160-year-old house since 2019 and has sought many grants to cover the costs of decades of deferred maintenance. In a perfect world, Black would have used the museum’s forced closure during the pandemic to catch up on decades of deferred maintenance. But the necessary funding is not easily had, even if the gates were open.

As such, the museum chugs along as the little museum that could, a treasure of 12,000 artifacts and a window into the defining colonial days of European settlement in B.C.

READ ALSO: Victoria’s Point Ellice House reopens after months of closure

“When people come in here and the first thing they see is water stains on the ceiling and crack monitors, they think we don’t care for this place,” Black said. “We’ve got some grants but not enough for the deferred maintenance we need to upgrade.”


A study commissioned by the B.C. Liberal government for 2007 shows a need of $236,943 in annual funding for the wages and maintenance of Point Ellice House. (Provincial Heritage Properties Sustainability Study, 2007)

A crack monitor is a small tool that can be gently fastened into the plaster on either side of a crack and slowly expands with the crack over time. There are multiple monitors affixed in the main house however there are also several cases of peeling paper, significant water stains on the ceiling and rotting wood on the veranda.

Black and the society that run the house do the most they can with what they have. In 2019 a new not-for-profit society, headed by Black, took over in place of the previous one. They took a new position, redefining Point Ellice House as a representation of colonial settlement and Indigenous disruption, shaking off its legacy as a replica of Victorian England.

Much of the facility is in pristine condition, however, the small things add up.

For instance, old CD’s dangle on red ribbons outside the house to scare woodpeckers off the wood flashing, where they’ve chewed holes the size of golf balls.

“You do what you can,” said Black.

For a long time, the society that runs Point Ellice House received only $40,000 annually. Revenues from the high tea, as charming as it was, and even with the dedicated volunteer crew, did not offset the funds needed, Black said. That funding is now at $80,000 but it’s still not enough. A 2007 report ordered by the Liberal government of the day, the Provincial Heritage Properties Sustainability Study, calculated a need for $236,943 in annual funding to keep Point Ellice House running.

That’s without considering any gate revenue.

The challenge is, you can’t just pull it apart and repair it, Black said.

“If it’s wallpaper, you have to pay a professional to gain an understanding of the history there. They will study it and know how many layers and from when, and you have to decide which [era] to restore it to.”

READ MORE: Point Ellice exhibit offers new lens into colonial history

Outside, much work has been done to update the gardens. Original garden beds were restored last year and food grown in them was donated to residents of Cool Aid’s Sandy Merriman House. The gardens are being doubled with a A My Great Neighbourhood Grant to restore the original cut flower beds.

Inside, most of the house remains pristine, such as the Peter O’Reilly’s office. O’Reilly moved into the house in 1867 and the family stayed until the 1970s. Visitors can stand next to his desk, circa the 1880s, where he sorted the specifics as “Indian reserve commissioner” that shaped the future of B.C.’s Indigenous peoples and many of which are debated to this day.

“This is a major piece of colonial history,” Black said. “We are really trying to get the province, who owns this site, to please invest in it accordingly so we can care for it, and engage the public with the stories that this place has to tell.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Smoke is visible from the Trans-Canada Highway, April 16 around 12:15 p.m. (Black Press Media photo)
Saanich, View Royal firefighters respond as smoke spotted in Burnside West area

Multiple fire departments respond to area of Burnside West and Prospect Lake roads

A GoFundMe has been launched in memory of an eight-year-old boy who drowned at a Hotel Zed pool in Victoria on March 24. (Jane Andema/GoFundMe)
GoFundMe started in memory of 8-year-old boy who died at Hotel Zed pool

Child drowned after wandering off to the pool alone

This image shows northbound traffic on Highway 17 looking to turn west onto Keating Cross Road (far right top corner), crossing the southbound lane on Highway 17. A new flyover overpass promises to ease delays and improve safety, but the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is calling for revisions in joining other critics. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce calls for revisions to Central Saanich flyover overpass

Chamber deems current proposal necessary but insufficient in calling for full movement interchange

The Capital Regional Hospital District has approved awarding a tender to QM Environmental for the demolition and hazardous materials disposal of the Oak Bay Lodge. (Black Press Media File)
Winning bidder approved for Oak Bay Lodge demolition

Capital Regional Hospital District board approves $4.266 million budget for project

Rendering of the floating market space that is part of one of the two proposals for the Turkey Head and Oak Bay Marina properties. (Courtesy District of Oak Bay)
Oak Bay Marina questionnaire nets hundreds of responses

Mayor Kevin Murdoch impressed by the quality, quantity of input on two proposals

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds, amenities coming to B.C. parks as part of $82M provincial boost

This camping season alone, Environment Minister George Heyman announced 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks

The Nanaimo Clippers’ game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs slated for Thursday, April 15, has been postponed due to a “potential positive COVID-19 test result,” says the BCHL. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers COVID-19 test negative, team can practise and play

Junior A hockey team had suspended activities the day before out of ‘abundance of caution’

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Most Read