Salt Fall/Winter 2014 - page 31

Point Ellice House
A short drive — or a longer walk — from
downtown, Point Ellice House offers a rare
glimpse into Victorian life a century ago.The
house was built in 1861 for Peter O’Reilly,
whose job titles hint at the excitement of
early Victoria: High Sheriff, Indian Reserve
Commissioner, County Court Judge, and Gold
Commissioner.The house is truly picturesque: a
one-storey Victorian cottage with pitched gable
roofs, fluted brick chimneys, bay windows, wide
verandas, and lush gardens.
O’Reilly’s daughter Kathleen eventually
inherited the house. She was a well-known
figure in Victoria’s history and though she
remained single all her life, she happened to
have two very well-known suitors: Captain
Robert Scott, the explorer of the Antarctica,
and Captain Henry Stanhope, who later
became Lord Chesterfield.
The house and grounds overlook the Gorge,
a long winding waterway snaking through
much of western Victoria.This picturesque
waterway is the site of one of Victoria’s
greatest tragedies: the collapse of the Point
Ellice Bridge. On May 26, 1896 — Queen
Victoria’s birthday — a streetcar packed
with revellers passed over the bridge.The car
was too full, the bridge wasn’t strong enough,
and 142 passengers plunged into the water
and 55 died.
Point Ellice house and gardens are open
May to September as a museum. Using
Kathleen’s notes and photos, the property has
been maintained to look virtually the same as
when the O’Reillys lived there.
Peter O’Reilly who built
Point Ellice House
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