Caring for a Historic Lawn: Support our Purchase of a New Mower

Point Ellice House Musuem & Gardens

Like many historic sites in BC and Canada, Point Ellice House has a document called the Statement of Significance (SoS) which describes the heritage value and character defining elements of the site. The SoS is a guiding document for our work at Point Ellice House – it explains which materials, forms, uses, and cultural associations contribute to its value as a heritage site. One of the character defining elements of Point Ellice House is the mature historic garden and landscaping, including the lawn. Yes, a large patch of grass is part of what makes this place special. But what’s so special about the lawn?

To the O’Reilly family, the lawn was more than just a patch of grass, it was integral to their ability to entertain guests and, therefore, maintain their social status among Victoria and BC’s elites. Keeping the lawn beautiful and smooth for tennis parties or croquet tournaments was an important task, and Peter O’Reilly frequently noted in his diary when work was done to improve it:

  • October 18th, 1872: B[____] sowing grass seed in croquet ground
  • October 2nd, 1873: Two Indians commenced work at new croquet ground. 
  • October 28th, 1873: Laurence top dressed the croquet grd.
  • June 20th, 1898: W. Pinder marked out croquet court assisted by Kit. [see image below]

Lawn games like tennis and croquet were an important part of the social calendar for the O’Reillys and their friends. Photographs, paintings, and documents from the Point Ellice House collection and BC Archives give us a glimpse into these events and their significance

“Tennis party at Point Ellice House.”
Item C-03926, BC Archives
“Tennis party at Point Ellice House.”
Item C-03925, BC Archives
Tea on the lawn, c. 1902.
PEH 1991.002.027A
Plan for the Point Ellice House tennis court.
Point Ellice House Collection
Our old lawnmower.
Point Ellice House, 2019

Today, we continue to care for the lawn and maintain its heritage value – it was recently aerated with volunteer support from Pacific Horticulture College students. Of course, the most frequent action we take is cutting the grass. Unfortunately, our old mower is no longer up to the task – its self propelled mechanism does not work and we’ve had to make several costly repairs to the wheels and engine over the last few years. The time has come for an upgrade. 

For a lawn of this size, we require a professional or commercial mower – something a little more up to the task than your average residential machine.  Most museums, like so many cultural organizations and businesses, are struggling during the pandemic. Operations at Point Ellice House have often made the most out of limited funding, but  the cost of a new commercial mower is one we are unable to take on at this time. This is where we hope you, dear reader, can help. 

Our goal is to raise $2500.00 toward the purchase of a new lawn mower for the site. This is, perhaps, not the most glamorous fundraising drive, but it is a practical one. Our objective is to provide staff and volunteers with the best tools for the job. From conserving objects to mowing the lawn, maintaining the heritage value of Point Ellice House is at the heart of our work and we hope you may be able to support our efforts. 

To make a donation to Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens, please visit our CanadaHelps page by clicking here (donations over $50 are eligible for a charitable tax receipt) 

Scroll to top