Alice Wilson and Davyd McMinn enjoy a cup of tea at the Ross Bay Villa in Fairfield Monday. The Ross Bay Villa is celebrating its 150th anniversary this Sunday (July 19)

Ross Bay Villa celebrate 150th anniversary

Nestled between a residential home and a three-storey commercial building sits a one-storey stone coloured villa on Fairfield Road.

Nestled between a residential home and a three-storey commercial building sits a one-storey stone coloured villa in the 1400-block of Fairfield Road.

The garden surrounding the 1,200-square-foot home includes a colourful assortment of flowers and its windows are lined with lace curtains.

From the outside, its a modest home, but once you step off the porch, it’s like entering a time capsule into the 1860s.

The villa’s 12-foot-tall drawing room ceilings are lined with blue and white patterned wallpaper, its windows are draped with floral-patterned curtains, a fortepiano sits next to a “what not” and above the fireplace sits a massive over-mantle mirror.

The rest of the home, including the entry hall, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms and servant room are just as authentically furnished as the drawing room.

The Ross Bay Villa Historic House Museum belonged to Frank Roscoe and Anna Letitia Le Breton who lived in the villa from 1865-1879. The family eventually moved from England to settle in Victoria, establishing a hardware business called Fellows & Roscoe.

Roscoe also served as a member of parliament and worked to bring the railroad to B.C.

The gothic revival-style villa quickly became a place for the family and their five children to entertain the creme de la creme of Victoria’s elite.

“They were unitarians. They came from the enlightened group in England,” said Simone Vogel-Horridge, president of the Ross Bay Villa Society who began working on the restoration of the building when it began in 2000.

“They were also very practical. You could tell by their house, it’s very small and modest. They knew what their means were and they didn’t overextend themselves. [Roscoe] was very smart and intelligent.”

Now, the single floor home stands almost exactly as it was back in 1865.

Over the past 15 years, the Ross Bay Villa Society has restored the home (which is currently owned by the Land Conservancy of B.C.) back to its former glory.

Vogel-Horridge and the team of more than 150 volunteer have spent years find and researching authentic period furniture (finding everything from an albion stove to mattresses and card tables to oil lamps), recreating wallpaper, hand-painting the entry hall walls and tiles, and bringing in fine art and textile conservators and heritage consultants to make sure everything in the home is authentic.

But the project wasn’t without challenges.

“Early on the foundations were shot. They were just rotten, wooden pillars,” said Nick Russell, a board member who has been working on the project for the past 15 years.

“We worked under there in the wet, filthy, muddy stinky space to put in 56 concrete posts.”

Finding the funds to complete the restoration was also a problem, but allowed to society to come up with some creative solutions.

“Instead of buying a $50,000 oil cloth, we made it ourselves for $12,000 and fundrasised for it,” said Vogel-Horridge, adding that funds mostly came from donations, small grants and the volunteers who donated their time, expertise and materials.

“We’ve done this all on a very tight shoe-string budget. We’ve invested so much of our time and money, we need to protect it and make it last for a long time.”

This Sunday (July 19), the villa will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The free celebration will include live music, heritage displays, information booths and a Victorian carnival. Cream tea will also be served for $7 and there will be guided tours also for $7.

Though most of the home is restored, there are a few things they hope to do.

“You never finish an old house because it constantly needs renewal,” said Russell. “The master bedroom we need to finish and we need to make wallpaper for the three rooms.”

For more information about the celebration, email info@rossbayvilla.org.

 

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