Rose Manor is Victoria’s oldest retirement residence. For over one hundred years, the building has been in continual use as a home for seniors. Supported by a century of intact archives, it is of local, social and women’s historical significance.
In 1894, Lady Aberdeen, wife of 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 and housed in the French Benevolent Hospital building. Prior to this, the building sat empty for nearly thirteen years, thus renovations were needed. 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.
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 26th 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 the facility which is managed by Oak Bay Kiwanis Rose Manor Society. Well qualified for the responsibility, the Oak Bay Kiwanis Health Care Society was formed in 1979 by the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay. The specific focus of the Society was to provide care services to seniors in need. The society’s first project the development of the Oak Bay Kiwanis Pavilion, a 121 bed intermediate care facility which opened in May 1982.
Proud of the century of service it has provided the community; today Rose Manor operates as a home for independent seniors. True to its legacy of care and innovations Rose Manor continues to improve and upgrade its facilities for the well being and quality of life of its residents.