Point Ellice House, a Victorian oasis on Victoria’s Upper Harbour.
Peter O’Reilly (1827 – 1905) immigrated to Canada from Ireland with a letter of introduction to Sir James Douglas in hand. O’Reilly became the second Gold Commissioner of the Rock Creek Mining District, though was most notable as the head of the O’Reilly Commission charged with revising and allocate Indian Reserves throughout the province. O’Reilly was criticized in his time, and by latter-day academics, for largely shirking his duties and avoiding meetings with First Nations leaders, but the basis of the Indian Reserve system as it exists in British Columbia today is the outcome of his assignment,
In 1863, Peter O’Reilly married Caroline Trutch, whose brother Joseph was the first Lieutenant-Governor of the province. The O’Reilly family were highly regarded in the Colony and subsequently the Province of B.C. They moved into the elegant Point Ellis House in 1867, frequently receiving Victoria’s social elite for breakfast, luncheon, and tea. The home remained in the O’Reilly family for 108 years.
One of North America’s largest collections of late Victorian and early Edwardian domestic objects.
In 1975, O’Reilly’s grandson, John, and his wife, Inez, sold the house and all its contents to the Province of British Columbia to ensure it would form a lasting legacy of B.C.’s early days. John and Inez, realizing the significance of the possessions of the family, left behind everything – from armoires to tea services, the family harp, clothing, writing desks, board games, kitchen utensils would provide a poignant window into a way of life no longer lived. What is now on display, which covers the period from 1890 through 1920, provides a rare opportunity to see one of North America’s largest collections of late Victorian and early Edwardian objects in its original, privileged Victorian home.
The house, overlooking the waters of Victoria’s scenic Gorge Waterway, is both a museum and refuge- a small oasis amidst contemporary urban life. Now surrounded by industry. It was designated an National Historic Site in 1966 and though surrounded by the heavy industry of the Upper Harbour, the house and its historic gardens still elegantly exude the peace of its former quiet setting.
Harbour Ferry Service to Point Ellis House
From March through October you can embark from the Empress Docks to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and let your Harbour Ferry Captain take you on a peaceful narrated cruise up the historic Gorge Waterway. Step back in time, relax and enjoy this scenic 60-minute non-stop tour featuring historic homes, working shipyards and if the tide is in your favour, you may get a chance to see the reversing falls under the Tillicum Bridge.
On the way back, you have the option of collecting a token from your captain and getting off at Point Ellice House or heading back to the Empress Dock.