Point Ellice House and the O’Reilly Family
Peter O’Reilly immigrated to Canada from Ireland, a letter of introduction to Sir James Douglas in hand. He became one of the first Gold Commissioners and Judges in what was then a British Colony, later to become the Province of British Columbia .
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. and they frequently received visitors for breakfast, lunch and tea.
Peter and Caroline O’Reilly moved into Point Ellice House in time for the birth of their daughter Kathleen who was born on December 31, 1867. The O’Reillys had four children: Frank, born in 1866; Kathleen, born in 1867; Mary Augusta, born in 1869; and Arthur (also known as Jack), born in 1873. The house was a gathering spot for Victoria’s social elite, and remained in the O’Reilly family’s possession for 108 years.
Point Ellice House Today
In 1975, three generations later, O’Reilly’s grandson, John, and his wife, Inez, sold the house and all its contents to the Province of British Columbia in order that it may form part of B.C.’s lasting legacy of its early days. John and Inez, realizing the significance of the possessions of the family, left behind everything – from armoires to tea services, a harp, clothing, writing desks, board games, kitchen utensils, and more. 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.
This National Historic Site, 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 still exudes the peace of its former quiet setting.