Heritage Register
James Bay

651 Battery Street

Built 1912-13
Heritage-Designated 1977

For: Thomas J. & Helen E. Ryan

Architect: John Charles Malcolm Keith
Interior woodwork: attributed to Walton J. Chapman

651 Battery


Ownyara is a 2½-storey, front-gabled Edwardian Arts & Crafts residence. There is Tudor Revival stucco and half-timbering in the front and rear gables, and in the gables of the dormers on either side of the roof. All the gable eaves are supported on triangular knee brackets with pyramidal ends. Front and rear gables have two small closet windows which are separated by three central windows; there are two small vents in the apices of the main gables. There is a small, cantilevered, bracketed balcony on the rear gable above a second-floor full-width deck and a first-floor verandah. A one-storey, flat-roofed, wide but shallow box bay is located on the left side; it, too, is cantilevered on brackets. Beyond this bay is a side staircase to a rear porch, the roof of which supports the extended deck.

A denticulated string course separates the upper front gable from the two lower floors. The front façade is symmetrical but for a box bay to the left of the main entrance and the offset front porch which extends to the right. A small balcony sits above the front entrance on the porch. The door and sidelights on the balcony have stained glass and the front door and sidelights have etched glass. The porch has triple square posts at either end and a couplet in the centre joined by flat Tudor Revival arches. The balcony balusters are square, the porch and stepped stair balustrades are solid, with bevelled siding like the rest of the house. Many of the windows are one-over-one sashes with horns. There are stained glass windows in the front and left side of the house. The body and basement are clad in bevelled siding; the foundation is concrete. There are three corbelled brick chimneys, one with two flues, the others with three. Ownyara is valued for its architect, its fine design, and for its owners, for their historical importance and for the longevity of the family’s connection with the house. Designed by prominent BC architect J.C.M. Keith, (Christ Church Cathedral at 911 Quadra St, Fairfield, Beacon Hill School, 120 Douglas St and South Park School Annex, 508 Douglas St, James Bay), this home marks the more fashionable type of development in James Bay: “Living near the sea and park.”


Thomas “T.J.” Ryan, magistrate, Crown Lands agent, treasurer and clerk of the Township of McKim, and early mayor of Sudbury, was born in Grey County, ON, in 1858. He also representated a number of loan and savings, and insurance companies. Dr. Helen Elizabeth Ryan, MCDM of Ontario, who graduated in 1885 from Women’s Medical College Kingston, an affiliate of Queens University, was born Ellen Reynolds in Mt. Forest, ON, in 1860. She first earned a teaching certificate from Mt. Forest Model School in 1879 before entering medicine. Helen was the first woman to be granted membership in the Canadian Medical Association. In 1885 she opened an office in Toronto, but a severe attack of pleuro-pneumonia forced her to return to the country in 1888. Once recovered, she established a practice with her younger brother in Mt. Forest, where she travelled miles of bush at all hours to tend to patients.

In 1890 Helen married Thomas Ryan, and moved to Sudbury. For 17 years ran a medical practice, cared from her home, and raised five children. In 1907 the Ryans retired to Victoria, where Thomas died in 1921 at 63.

Helen became an advocate for women’s franchise and education. She joined the Local Council of Women and travelled BC, lecturing to Women’s Institutes. She was a member of the original UBC convocation and a charter member of the University Women’s Club. Active until 80, she was forced into retiremnent by deafness and a series of accidents. She lived in this house with son Horace and his wife Blanche until her death at 87 in 1947.

William Horace Ryan was born in Sudbury in 1899, and during school days in Victoria at Kingston St School and South Park School, was one of “The Beacon Hill Boys” who occasionally ran afoul of “The Outer Wharf Boys.” He enlisted for WWI under age and fought in France and Belgium with the Canadian Artillery. Horace then worked all over BC in the 1920s and 1930s on road location, topographic surveying, logging and timber cruising, and developed a lifelong love of the wilderness. In 1941 he joined the office of registrar of voters in Victoria, and after several years he became Registrar, until his retirement in the mid-1960s. He married Blanche Ebbs-Canavan in 1944. Horace died in 1987 and Blanche in 1999. Their offspring, Bill and Joan Ryan now own the house. In 2006 they received a Hallmark Society Award for preservation of their family home through three generations: it is now 100 years of family stewardship.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Two: James Bay

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