Rose Manor is Victoria’s oldest retirement residence. For over one hundred years, the building has been in continual use as a home, servicing various inhabitants. Supported by a century of intact archives, it is of local, social and women’s historical significance.
In 1894, Lady Aberdeen, the wife of the Governor General of Canada, championed local women to form a group to care for the indigent. She organized the “Local Council of Women”, with a special committee called, “The Friendly Help Society” representing various churches in Victoria. In its initial stages, women collected food and clothing for the poor. When it became apparent that much more was needed, the Society’s focus expanded.
A home for impoverished, elderly women was established by the Society in 1897 in the French Benevolent Hospital building. Prior to this, the building sat empty for nearly thirteen years, thus renovations were required. When they were completed in April 1898, two women moved into what was named, “The Aged and Infirm Women’s Home of Victoria”. They were cared for by a woman and her two children who lived in a cottage on the grounds. Shortly thereafter, demand exceeded the available space and the home underwent renovations once again.
In 1907, the Friendly Help Society bought the old French hospital for $2,800.00. The building was then torn down and reconstructed with two grants of $5,000.00 each from the city of Victoria and the provincial government. However, this was only the beginning of the building as it stands today. Additions and further renovations continued in stages, with new wings being added every ten years or so until the three storey dining room section was completed in 1971. Rose Manor was a residence exclusively for women until 1979, when accommodations were provided for men as well. In 2000, the original west wing was demolished and replaced with 28 condominium style suites. In 2002, the kitchen and dining room were renovated and upgraded, with the addition of three suites and a chapel above the kitchen and four suites below it. In 2002, the original east wing was also upgraded and converted to 6 condominium style suites.
As the building evolved, so did its surrounding grounds. One of the original committee members, Mrs. William Grant, transplanted rose bushes from her home at Point Ellice to start the now famous rose gardens. This gracious donation was announced at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. On April 26, 1958 the home was formerly reintroduced to the people of Victoria as Rose Manor by his worship, Mayor P.B. Scurrah.
Since its inception, Rose Manor has been served by a volunteer Board of Directors.
In 1998, BC Housing, an agency of the provincial government, assumed ownership of Rose Manor. It is managed by members of the Oak Bay Kiwanis Rose Manor Society, who are well qualified for the responsibility because previously, in 1979, the Oak Bay Kiwanis Health Care Society was formed by members of the same Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay. The specific focus of the Health Care Society was to provide care services to seniors in need. The society’s first project was the development of the Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion, a 121 bed, intermediate care facility which opened in May 1982. Rose Manor, The Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion, Milton Manor and Willows Tea Room are all affiliated with the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay.
For over a century of service to the community, Rose Manor currently operates as a facility for independent seniors. True to its legacy of care and innovation, Rose Manor continues to improve and upgrade its amenities, providing a high standard of living for those who call it, “home”.