Broken-windows covered with plastic, walls brown with filth, and an overgrown yard strewn with garbage and old cars.
Once dilapidated and set for demolition in 1999, today Ross Bay Villa is a historical house and museum, lovingly restored back to the simple charm of its heyday in 1865.
And now, it is for sale.
Financial difficulties are forcing the owner of Ross Bay Villa, The Land Conservancy, to sell off a number of its heritage properties to pay down an estimated $7.5 million in debt.
The Ross Bay Villa Society must raise $130,000 to pay off the existing mortgage and transfer ownership from TLC to the society.
The possibility to own the property would mean keeping it safe for future generations.
“It’s not yet fully protected,” said Simone Vogel-Horridge, president of the Ross Bay Villa Society.
“It’s so important to preserve the heritage for our children and grandchildren.”
Restoring the modest cottage has been a 14-year labour of love for the society’s volunteers. More than 73,000 volunteer hours have poured into the restoration.
“We’re all heavily invested – in heart and financially,” Vogel-Horridge said.
Volunteers restored plaster, sanded wood, painted walls and dug gardens. Careful analysis went into furnishing and decorating, which was done using old photographs and an auction list from Ross Bay Villa dating back to 1879.
“The history was still there,” said Vogel-Horridge.“We just needed to find it and reveal it.”
The gnarled garden was even cleared to reveal fruit trees that had been growing since the 1890s.
One of the few survivors from the 1860s Victoria, Ross Bay Villa has been nominated as one of the province’s best buildings by the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia.
Vogel-Horridge said the society hopes to raise funds by February in time for the Villa’s 150th birthday. She said an entire year of events are planned for each month with lectures, tours and themed activities.
The society would like to raise an additional $70,000 for a legacy endowment fund to ensure Ross Bay Villa remains a part of Victoria’s preserved history.
Vogel-Horridge is hopeful. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
To make a donation, please go online to rossbayvilla.org.