This Week in History: The Restoration of Ross Bay Villa

“The house was in fairly poor condition” says Simone Vogel-Horridge.

Vogel-Horridge is President of the Ross Bay Villa Society.

She’s describing a home at on Fairfield Road in Victoria, and its condition back in 1999.

“It was the eye-sore of the neighbourhood, and a lot of people wanted it gone and the house was almost demolished about 16 years ago.”

But Ross Bay Villa was saved from the wrecking ball.

“A few people in the heritage community realized that it had some old bones” explains Vogel-Horridge, “and they said we need some time to research it.

“It was determined that it was from 1865, so, one of the early homes in Victoria.”

Once saved, volunteers began the long task of restoring the heritage home.

That included analyzing the structure to determine what parts were original.

“Wallpaper analysis, paint analysis…” says Vogel-Horridge.

“We figured out where there would have been carpeting, just by the evidence that was left on the original floors.”

And the team wanted to restore not just the house, but the furnishings too.

“A lot of time was spent at the archives to learn about the original owners of the Ross Bay Villa, the Roscoes” says Vogel-Horridge.

“They were quite prominent in Victoria in the 1860’s and 1870’s, and luckily the newspaper at the time wrote quite frequently about Mr. Roscoe because he was an MP for Victoria in Ottawa.”

But how could the restoration volunteers determine what the Roscoe’s style might have been? That is when serendipity played a role.

“We were quite lucky” says Vogel-Horridge “when one of the researchers found an auction list of all the furniture that was sold off in 1879.”

An auction list created when Mrs. Roscoe returned to England after her husband’s death.

That list became the shopping list, with items such as Brussels Weave Carpets which were then sourced by the Society.

“These ones were made in England, woven on these tiny looms and then hand-sewn together” Vogel-Horridge explains.

There was a ‘whatnot’ on the list. But what’s a ‘whatnot’?

“It turns out it’s a tiered corner shelf” Vogel-Horridge explains.

“We also have a Singer sewing machine because the auction lists it.”

The search for a Rosewood piano continued for years, but one was eventually found.

Vogel-Horridge credits the BC Archives as an invaluable source to ensure accuracy of this spectacular restoration.

“There’s a lot of information that’s still available” says Vogel-Horridge.

“You just have to find it. And then you have to interpret it. You need to get it right.”