The Historic Site

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens is operated by the Vancouver Island Local History Society with financial support from the Province of British Columbia.

In 1975, 108 years after the O’Reilly family first purchased Point Ellice House, John and Inez sold the house and its contents to the Province of British Columbia. Realizing the significance of the family’s possessions, the couple left behind nearly everything – from armoires to tea services, a harp, clothing, writing desks, board games, kitchen utensils, and more. Today, the Point Ellice House collection contains over 12,000 artifacts original to the O’Reilly family. The items now on display cover the period from 1890 through 1920.

The landscape, gardens, and plants of Point Ellice House are an integral part of the site’s historic collections as well. The lawn on the west side of the house functioned as the O’Reilly’s croquet and tennis court. The Woodland Walk, in the northwestern corner of the property, is an important ecosystem, home to native plants such as ocean spray, arbutus, and red currant, as well as mink, river otters, raccoons, and deer. In the southern portion of the property, a vegetable garden is separated from the rest of the grounds by a wire and post fence, and a greenhouse once stood alongside it. The South Garden historically contained the working kitchen garden, a small orchard, and a cut flower garden. Today, food grown in the South Garden is donated to Sandy Merriman House, an emergency shelter for women.

The Point Ellice shoreline is known as the largest surviving natural and heritage landscape along Victoria Harbour and the Gorge Waterway. Several non-native plant species, such as ivy and periwinkle, escaped from the formal gardens to the shoreline, so volunteers have been working since 2008 to remove invasive plants from the area and replant with native species. Point Ellice House is also located within the oldest migratory bird sanctuary in Canada (created 1923). Barred owls, eagles, and other raptors roost in the mature trees on the property. 

Throughout the twentieth century, industrial operations overtook the once residential character of the Rock Bay neighborhood. Point Ellice House and its surroundings remain a prime example of the urban, social, and environmental changes that Victoria and British Columbia have undergone over the last 160 years.

Today, the house and gardens provide a rare opportunity to see one of North America’s largest collections of late Victorian and early Edwardian objects, as well as Victorian gardens, in their original setting. Point Ellice House continues to be a site for recreation, social gatherings, and learning – a small oasis in the midst of urban commotion.