Point Ellice House returns with story of waste and water

See chamber pots on display as part of a new exhibit at Point Ellice House Museum, which opens today at the Pleasant Street site.

Four chamber pots — kept in bedrooms before the advent of indoor plumbing — are part of an exhibit at the museum in the site’s visitors centre. The display, called Springs and Scavengers: Waste and Water in Victoria, covers 1842 to 1915. The museum area and the Point Ellice grounds will be open Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. starting today, but the house itself will remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“People can learn about the history of the house as they tour the grounds,” said executive director Kelly Black. He said there are several outdoor panels to read.

Volunteers will be around to talk to people, he said, and people can book a 30-minute appointment at pointellicehouse.com to have the exhibit reserved for members of their group.

“But people are encouraged to stay longer while we’re open,” Black said. “Enjoy the grounds, bring a picnic, hang out on our lawn and smell the roses.”

He said the idea is bring different aspects of local history together.

“What we’re trying to do here is use the house, use the stories of the house and the collection of over 10,000 artifacts we have here to not only talk about the history of this site but also how it’s connected to the history of Victoria,” he said.

“This is our first exhibit where we’re connecting the stories of Point Ellice House to the wider history of the city and province.”

The exhibit includes a section of a wooden water pipe, on loan from the City of Victoria archives.

Black said the hollowed-out logs were used by the Spring Ridge Water Works Company to send water to downtown from Fernwood. The company predated the municipal water system.

He said that with the region’s new sewage-treatment plant being built, the exhibit seems timely.

“But the pandemic quickly increased its relevance,” he said. “The history of waste and water in British Columbia is entangled with the history of public health, racism and societal response to the spread of disease.”

The site, located near the Bay Street bridge, is run by the Vancouver Island Local History Society, which took over management of the attraction in 2019.

Admission to the site, at 2616 Pleasant St., is based on the number of people in a group. One to two people is $8, groups of three to four is $15, and groups of five to six is $20.

For more information, go to pointellicehouse.com.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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