By Lisa Preston
Ross Bay Villa is one of only a few 1860s homes left in Victoria. Built in 1865, the gothic revival style residence is remarkably intact, retaining almost all of its original detailing, both inside and out. With the incredible leadership and professional guidance of a dedicated group of volunteers, The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC) has been working to bring the site back to its former glory.
Saved from demolition, it has become a gem of a historic house museum and home to the offices of two local heritage societies. The exterior work has been largely completed and we are now focusing on the interior. The restoration of the grounds is near complete and is being designed to show the appearance of the garden during the late 1860s. A group of volunteers is also working on a fascinating project to transcribe the diary kept by the Roscoes, the first family to occupy the house from 1865-1878.
For a history of the project please check out the TLC blog.
This project has been entirely volunteer driven, with leadership by heritage professionals and support from the TLC. The work has been progressing steadily over the last 12 years with hundreds of volunteers lending their expertise, time and tools to the project and fundraising efforts. Our current core group of volunteers, the “Ross Bay Villains,” includes students, public servants, historians, conservators, archaeologists, gardeners, carpenters, and many others, including a former resident of the home, passionate about keeping the past alive.
Each year we open up the house and gardens to the community for a Canada Day Lawn Party. This year the weather was beautiful and we extended the hours of the event to allow for even more people to enjoy guided tours of the house with the last stop being a stroll across the newly installed Oilcloth in the front hall. This year’s event was part of the Victoria 150 celebrations and was documented on video.
The house is also open for guided tours once a month. A new friend of TLC has made several visits to document the grounds and the interior and his photos and blog posts have been collected and posted here http://blog.conservancy.bc.ca/2012/06/toad-hollow-photography-visits-ross-bay-villa/
Work continues to finish the restoration of the front hall, including wood graining 12′ lengths of wallpaper by hand, and planning is underway for our grand opening celebrations next year.
Thank you to the Victoria Foundation and the Community Foundations of Canada for access to apply for the 2012 Benjamin Moore Community Restoration Program grant. We are all extremely grateful for the financial support Benjamin Moore is providing and this grant will help speed the completion of the final projects and painting to allow us to meet our target completion date of August 2013.
Lisa Preston is a member of the TLC Ross Bay Villa Restoration Committee in Victoria, BC.