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Heritage Register
Burnside

2616 Pleasant Street
(ex-3, 4 (1907), 5 (1892) Pleasant St)
Point Ellice House


Built 1861-62
Heritage-Registered
National Historic Site 1966
Provincial Historic Site 1975

For: Catherine & Charles Wallace; Peter & Caroline O'Reilly

Architects: John Wright & George Sanders;
John Teague; William Ridgway Wilson


ARCHITECTURE:

This rambling, one-storey, Italianate Villa-style house is hip-roofed, has many gables, and has brackets in the wide eaves. There is a gabled dormer on the left side, and a hip-roofed verandah beneath a wide gable; the verandah has turned and bracketed posts supported on the rail of the balustrade. The rear or garden façade, which faces the Gorge, has a hip-roofed angled bay at the front of a gabled wing. On the right side is a wing with front and rear gabled extensions. The right rear corner has a wrap-around porch, with square bracketed posts and no balustrade. The front façade has a projecting, flat-roofed entrance porch attached to the wall below a gable with an oculus under the central bracket. To its right is a large, hip-roofed box bay. This façade has large two-over-two double-hung sashes. The stuccoed walls are scored to resemble stone blocks. The trim is all of wood; most corners have capped corner boards to resemble pilasters. There are a number of corbelled brick chimneys, three of which are split-stack. The house is set in its original garden with many native trees, but also an old Sequoiadendron gigantium, the giant redwood, a reminder of Victoria’s California connections at the time. There is an elaborate reproduction picket fence punctuated by wooden gateposts with turned finials.


ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

This is one of Victoria’s oldest houses, built in 1861 and designed by Victoria architects Wright & Sanders, the first practising architects on the West Coast. Although it is known primarily for the O’Reilly family, it was actually built on Hillside Farm property for Catherine Work (1842-1869), one of the daughters of John and Susette “Josette” Work (see Hillside/Quadra history), when she married Charles Wentworth Wallace (1837-1891) in 1861 in the Iron Church. Catherine was born at Fort Simpson, Charles in Halifax. Charles was in coal mining, possibly at the north end of the island, and a steamboat owner. He went bankrupt, likely sold the mine to Catherine’s brother John in 1868, and Charles and Catherine moved in with her widowed mother on Hillside Farm, where Catherine died the following year. Their daughter Eliza Jane married Edward Blackwood in 1888 (911 Linden Av, Rockland).*

Peter O’Reilly and his family moved into this house in December 1867, and purchased it in January 1868 for $2,500. Peter O’Reilly (1828-1905) was born in Ireland and was educated at Trinity College in Dublin. After serving with the Royal Irish Constabulary, he left for Canada, arriving in Victoria in 1859. His stay was short, however, as Gov James Douglas appointed him the colony’s gold commissioner. He also held various other posts around the province including: Justice of the Peace, Stipendiary Magistrate, Collector of Revenue, Assistant Commissioner of Lands, Indian Agent, and Coroner. From 1862-71 he was appointed to the mainland Legislative Council. He also served as County Court Judge in the Yale District from the mid-1860s until retiring in 1881. Sir John A. MacDonald appointed him Indian Reserve Commissioner from 1880-1898, and under the influence of his future brother-in-law, Joseph Trutch (first Lieut-Gov of BC), he laid out many Indian Reserves, as many as 600.

Trutch introduced his sister, Caroline Agnes (c.1831-1899), to Peter, and they married at Christ Church Cathedral in 1863. They lived in New Westminster briefly, where their first child Frank was born, before coming to Victoria and moving into Point Ellice House. The O’Reillys had four children: Francis Joseph (1866-1941), Charlotte Kathleen (1867-1945), Mary Augusta (1869-1876), and Arthur John (1873-1946). Mary was ill most of her life, and died at seven. Caroline died in 1899, and was buried in Folkestone, Kent, England.

Frank was educated in England as a civil engineer. After returning to Victoria and working at Esquimalt briefly, he travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and worked on the Great Southern Railway. In 1892-3, he returned to BC as a surveyor in the Kootenays for 14 years. Frank returned to Victoria in 1906 and established the surveying firm, Cross & Co, in the Belmont Building (600-620 Humboldt St, Downtown), which he and his siblings were instrumental in constructing, being the major owners. Cross & Co later entered the financial, real estate and insurance business. Frank was the provincial land surveyor for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. He travelled to the United States and Europe frequently, and in 1914 while in Italy, he married Jessie Carmichael Blakiston (?-1963), daughter of Capt Thomas Wright Blakiston. Frank returned to Victoria with his new wife, but hard financial times resulted in the breakup of their marriage.

Charlotte “Kathleen” took care of her siblings after her parents died. She was educated at Angela College, then Lady Murray’s finishing school in Kensington, London, England, from 1883-85. Kathleen never married, although she had many suitors. In her letters she said she could not bear to leave home. In the early 1890s, Capt Harry Athole Scudamore-Stanhope, future Earl of Chesterfield, England, proposed to her, but she turned him down. Another famous suitor was Capt Robert Scott, noted for his expedition to the Antarctic. Kathleen took part in the various high-society activities Victoria had to offer. She was presented to Lord Lieutenant and Lady Countess Cadogan in Dublin, Ireland, in 1897. The dress she wore is at the Royal BC Museum.

Arthur John “Jack” left home with his sister and mother at 9 to complete his education in England at Uppingham School. He returned to Victoria and apprenticed at the law firm Drake, Jackson & Helmcken. He was called to the bar in 1898, and eventually went into partnership with W.C. Moresby, KC. During WWI, Jack was a RN sub-lieutenant, then transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service as an observer, finishing his military career as a Major. By the late-1930s Jack and brother Frank had a real estate insurance business.

In 1914, Jack married Mary Beresford Windham (1886-1963) at St Peters Church, Norfolk, England. Their one son, John Windham, was born in this house. Jack and Mary lived here until they died. Son John married Inez Louise Elson, one of Canada’s first female licensed private detectives, born in Parkhill, ON. They were instrumental in preventing Point Ellice House from being demolished in the late-1960s. They took up residence here, and converted it into a museum. The Provincial Government bought the house and most of it contents accummulated over the previous 110+ years in 1974. The O’Reillys moved to an Art Deco house on Beach Dr in Oak Bay, and continued as volunteers in the heritage movement with the Hallmark Society and Craigdarroch Castle Society. John died in 1995 at 75, Inez in 2006.

* Research on Work Family by Pam Gaudio, descendant.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:

• Statement of Significance (Canadian Register of Historic Places)

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Three: Rockland, Burnside, Harris Green,
Hillside-Quadra, North Park & Oaklands


© VICTORIA HERITAGE FOUNDATION (VHF) 2016
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