Heritage Register
James Bay

606 Niagara Street
Æolia Cottage

Built 1907
Heritage-Designated 1986

For: George & Rosabella Burnett

Designers: George Burnett & George Mesher
Contractor: George Mesher

606 Niagara


This is a 1½-storey, side-gabled, British Arts & Crafts Cottage with a wide front gable assymmetrically placed over the front verandah. There is a wide, shed-roofed dormer on the back roof slope, and a later, small one on the front. A flared section at the bottom of the roof runs around the house, creating pent roofs at the bottom of the gables, with shingle siding flared out above them. The whole house is shingled down to the low fieldstone foundation, with no beltcourse to break the smooth line. However, the tops of the gables have half-timbering over upright drop siding, with a stringcourse and moulding below, creating the top frame of the paired double-hung sash windows. The gables have wide bargeboards with heavy crown molding. There is drop siding in the soffits and on the verandah ceiling. The verandah has a wide angled bay with 8-over-1 windows, shingled balustrades, side steps, 8x8 chamfered square posts and brackets like jigsaw pieces. Two very shallow box bays and an angled cantilevered window on heavy sandwich brackets light the large parlour and have the same unusual art glass in the transoms, as do double windows beside the front door. A basement garage door was added on the Government St side c.1926 when the Burnetts acquired their first auto.

Æolia Cottage got its name from George Jennings Burnett’s boyhood hobby constructing an Æolian harp. He built an acoustic music studio in the house, 25’ by 18’ with a 12-foot coved ceiling, to accommodate a custom-made water-powered pipe organ from R. Spurdon Rutt, London, England. The organ is now in Oak Bay United Church.


George was born in Somerset, England, came to New Westminster in 1889, and Victoria in 1891. He married Rosabella “Rose” Lennie in 1900. George was a widely-renowned organist who began his 50-year career at Calvary Baptist Church for several years, then moved to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian. In 1904 he became organist and choirmaster of St. John’s Anglican Church, where he remained for the next 37 years. George was also a composer, teacher and organizer of sacred and secular musical programmes. George’s musical compositions won competitions around the world. Several were published during his lifetime, and over 100 were documented. For many years, George was an accompanist for the Arion Male Voice Choir, and was made an honorary member. He was a founding member of the Victoria Choral Society and BC Music Teachers’ Association. George died in 1941 aged 73.

Rosa was born in Smith Falls, ON, to Orkney Island-born, Victoria-pioneer Baptist minister Rev. Robert Lennie and his wife Catherine. Rosa came to Victoria from New Westminster shortly before her marriage. Like her husband, Rosa was musical and was a renowned singer, introducing many of George’s compositions. She was a member of the Ladies’ Choral Society and sang with Metropolitan Methodist Church, St John’s Anglican Church and St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church choirs. She still lived in this residence when she died in 1958 at 81.

The Burnetts’ three daughters, Phyllis, Grace and Jean, inherited their musical talents. Phyllis married John Eltringham, an accountant at The Butchart Gardens, and they lived in the house until their deaths in the 1990s. Grace married school principal James Edmunds and they lived in Britannia Mines townsite. Jean married Hector Alexander. Their son Mark lived in the house until selling it in 2007.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

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

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