As Victoria gets ready to celebrate its 150th birthday, we find ourselves reflecting on the history that brought us here.  Victoria originally started out as Fort Victoria in 1843, and slowly as the years went by began to grow.  Very little of the original structures and buildings remain from this period, and any time we have a chance to be part of preserving and sharing our history we really enjoy doing so.

We’re taking a look at one of these historic old homes in today’s post, by visiting TLC The Land Conservancy of BC’s wonderful classic home the Ross Bay Villa.  This old character home was originally designed in a Gothic Revival style by John Wright, one of the earliest architects on the west coast of North America.  He is responsible for designing many of Victoria’s earliest buildings and it’s interesting to note that they are all preserved as either historic or heritage sites.  He also designed many buildings in San Francisco that have since been destroyed by fire and earthquake.  The house features a double-flue chimney which is one of his hallmarks.  The first residents of the house were Francis (Frank) and Anna Roscoe who moved in presumably under lease in the summer of 1865.  Their first child, Mary, was born in the house that August.  Roscoe served as MP for Victoria during the 1870’s and ended up stepping aside for Sir John A. MacDonald who went on to become Canada’s first Prime Minister.  This is one of the very first homes built in the Victoria area and is one of less than 12 remaining homes from the period.

Ross Bay Villa - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Victoria, BC, Canada

This home was almost demolished in 1998/1999 and only because of the care and stewardship of TLC was this home saved from a date with a wrecking ball.  Over 10 years has gone into its restoration at this time, and further work remains.  Our recent blog post “A Project Of Love” featured the ongoing work of a team of talented volunteers who have been working tirelessly since last fall to recreate an authentic oilcloth floor covering for the foyer in the home.  This oilcloth piece will be ready for the Canada Day Lawn Party at Ross Bay Villa, hosted by TLC.

Two of the rooms inside have been restored to completion, and TLC has been working on the outside grounds as well in an effort to recreate the original gardens and grounds of the home.  Incredible amounts of effort and research were done to identify the original footprint for the gardens and their features.  As a result, we were thrilled to have a chance to attend and photograph the commissioned archeological dig underway.  The group has been focused not only on restoring the original grounds, but have also been trying to find any artifacts from the period that may have been left behind. TLC is working in conjunction with the Victoria chapter of the Archaeological Society of B.C. on this project, which seeks to uncover clues about life at the Villa in the late 1800’s.

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

Once again, we find ourselves amidst a group of dedicated and passionate volunteers who go about their work with enthusiasm and a smile.  In today’s age where we find ourselves all running through life at high-speed, it’s really inspiring and wonderful to have a chance to take pause and enjoy watching people with a singular focus and drive working on such truly important projects.  If not for the caring of such groups, our heritage and history would easily disappear in a cloud of dust as new developments spring up.

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

There is no iPhone App for this work, no “Easy Button” to press to make it all magically happen…this is the tireless work of skilled and talented archeologists busy at work.  Each square foot of material brought up from the ground is passed through a manual filtering process in an effort to separate dirt from artifact.  To the layperson, much of the material brought up looks like simple dirt, but to the trained and skilled eye of these people artifacts and interesting items begin to emerge.

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

From talking to the team at work, we understood that all sorts of interesting things have appeared.  The work is difficult due to the fact that the home is today right in the middle of Victoria proper, and countless families have lived here and used the land since the 1860’s.  We were told of how over the years, rototilling has resulted in the layers becoming somewhat blurred, causing toys and glass from the late 1800’s to be mixed in with modern-day flotsam and jetsam.  The identification and cataloging of such things is something that is difficult to truly fathom as you watch these people carefully going about their work.

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa - Archeological Dig - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Archeological Dig – Victoria, BC, Canada

It was a real highlight of our spring to have a chance to attend the archeological dig at the Ross Bay Villa.  Those of you who follow our blog regularly know of our deep love for the history and heritage of Vancouver Island and BC.  It’s really something special to find a gem like the Villa here right in the heart of the city that for all intents and purposes is much like stepping through a time portal to a period almost 150 years prior.  Absolutely no detail is too small to be overlooked by the group charged with this intricate work, and the results really reflect this care.

As we mentioned above, the Canada Day Lawn Party is going to be a mighty exciting day.  Each step forward with the restoration project at the Villa brings us all one step closer to being in direct touch with our immediate history, and those who came before us and were responsible for settling and creating the area we now call home.

Let’s head back inside for a brief look at the completed Drawing Room at Ross Bay Villa.  The day we attended the archeological event, scheduling issues precluded us from performing a full photo-shoot inside, but we are working with TLC to arrange a date to return soon to capture a detailed set of photographs of the two completed rooms in the house.

Ross Bay Villa - Drawing Room - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Drawing Room – Victoria, BC, Canada

The amount of effort that went into sourcing and acquiring this perfect reproduction of the original wallpaper is astounding.  All the furniture you see here was a result of gracious donations from benefactors, and it all comes together to really create a strong sense of authenticity.  Just behind the open door in this photo is an area of the wall that is covered in plexiglass showing the various layers of original wallpaper from the era; a wonderful find that is delicately preserved and displayed for all future generations to enjoy and learn from.  There were more than 120 different wallpapers found in this house!

Ross Bay Villa - Drawing Room - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Drawing Room – Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa - Drawing Room - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Drawing Room – Victoria, BC, Canada

The beauty of the sitting area in the room is breathtaking.  This antique tea set heralds us back to the late 1800’s and immediately creates images of beautiful ladies in flowing and elaborate dresses and hats as they sit and talk about society and the happenings of the day.  Time slows down here, and within a matter of moments you completely forget that just outside the fence is a busy and bustling modern city, complete with all its trappings.

Ross Bay Villa - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ross Bay Villa – Victoria, BC, Canada

As we step outside to enjoy the gardens and lawn, we can’t help but be amazed at what we find.  Several of the original fruit trees are still here, including an old Wellington apple tree that stands in front of  the house, albeit with a little help.  It is very likely that these trees will continue to thrive for another 25 years or more.  What a truly magical place.

We hope you’re enjoying your tour of the Ross Bay Villa with us.  If you happen to be hopping by, put it on your “to do” list to visit this wonderful home.  Please stay tuned for our next installment, and thanks for popping by today!  And in closing, we’d like to mention that we really do love to hear from all our visitors, so please leave us any comments you may have!!




  1. avatar Jim Nix says:

    another great example of your documentary style Toad, esp love that teaset shot, nice work here!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, thanks so much there, Jim, your ongoing friendship & support really means an awful lot to us here!

  2. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Great post Toad. You have documented the great work that is being done to protect the history of your wonderful island and providing us with great images documenting the work. I’m with Jim, the tea set images rocks.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so much, Len, that’s very kind of you my friend! We really appreciate you taking the time to visit and leave us your wonderful comments!

  3. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Wow Toad this is an amazing post and incredible series of images. I really hope that the Land Conservancy is using your images to document this restoration. Perfect.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Absolutely, you bet, Edith, we’re just starting our work with this great group. Our work is being used in several of their publications and distributions, as well as being used for documentation purposes. It gives us great joy to be part of a broader solution like this, and your support and encouragement is the fuel that drives us on! Thanks so much, my friend, that just means so very much to us.

  4. avatar LensScaper says:

    Fascinating to read and so well illustrated. The interior images of the teaset and the teasels are superb images, Toad. I hope your work gets the recognition it deserves and promotes conservation and restoration. God knows we need folk like you and many others to protect our heritage

  5. A wonderful write up and your images, as always, are outstanding!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so much there, Mike! You, sir, are a scholar and a true gentleman, and we sure do appreciate it!

  6. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    This looks awesome. Your shots inside the Ross Bay Villa are nothing short of beautiful. Well done Toad 🙂 Just got back from Sicily, so I have some catching up to do on the blogs, as well as hundreds of new photos to edit 🙂 Have a great day buddy.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Don’t you just love it when you come home with full memory cards? Can’t wait to see what gems you’ve captured there, Adam! Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support here for our endeavors, it really means an awful lot to us!

  7. avatar Rich McPeek says:

    Terrific series of shots and story once again Toad! Great work my friend!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you ever so kindly, Rich! We really appreciate you taking the time to pop on by and leave us your comments here!

  8. avatar Chris Nitz says:

    This looks like a pretty damn fun time. It so closely resembles panning for gold, minus all the cold water and desire to fish instead.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      😀 HA! Chris, you have the best comments! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us, my friend, it sure does mean an awful lot!

  9. What a privilege to be able to document the wonderful work being done to restore this historical landmark. Your work to photograph the effort is as valuable as the actual restoration itself.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wow, Steven, those are some pretty incredible comments there, my friend. We are honored and humbled by your kindness, good sir. Thank you SO much!

  10. For those of us who actually live in this nick of the woods the property is definitely worth a visit. For me it’ll be on Canada Day hopefully . As always, Mr Toad, the write up is great as is the photography. Especially the interior photographs are top notch.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks for your kind words of support here, Joseph! We’re so happy to see our post here bringing awareness of the Villa to the community here on Vancouver Island. If indeed you do come, make sure to come find us, I am almost 100% certain we’ll be there!

  11. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Those are really cool shots. Nice read. That work does look like it could be taxing!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so much there, Aaron, we really appreciate your kind support! Yep, these archeologists are really incredible to watch in action. It’s fine work, very detailed. It’s definitely a labor of love and skill, no doubt about it! Thanks for your visit, my friend, we sure do appreciate it!

  12. avatar dragonflydreams88 says:

    . . . I will put on my “to do list” . . . what an interesting history, thanx for sharing!!!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Excellent! You will really enjoy it, my friend! Thanks for taking the time to visit us today, and for leaving us your comments! We really appreciate that!

  13. avatar TLC says:

    On behalf of The Land Conservancy thank you for the wonderful images and blog post on Ross Bay Villa. This is just the start of a beautiful partnership! It’s a pleasure to work with you Toad! Your photos are celebrated (especially with our graphic designer)!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What a kind comment to leave for us here, thank you so much! It’s easy to do good work when you are working with such a devoted, passionate and talented group of folks like you at TLC! We’re really looking forward to our next project together here this weekend. And as you said, this is just the very beginning of a wonderful partnership. It’s truly an honor and a privilege for us here! 🙂

  14. avatar Rick Louie says:

    What a painstaking process for the volunteers. Hats off to them. That Apple tree is amazing. I bet it has some stories to tell!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It’s a wonderful story and a wonderful facility, my friend, no doubt about it! Thanks a ton for popping by today and leaving us your comments here, we really appreciate it!

  15. avatar ehpem says:

    Toad – this is a wonderful set of images and a great story. I know only too well how difficult it is to take good photos of archaeological projects of this type.
    I am so glad that the work of the Victoria Chapter of the Archaeological Society of BC is getting this attention. They have been involved in this type of activity for many decades now and are a keen and enthusiastic mix of avocational and professional archaeologists that seek to spread their interest.
    It’s great that you covered this story, and the relationship you have with the TLC promises many more interesting stories of this kind.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You have no idea how much your comments mean to us here, my good friend! Thank you! We’ve just finished post-processing a large series of images taken inside of the two completed rooms at Ross Bay Villa, and will be posting those on our blog here in the coming days. We really get a large reward from working with such great folks as the TLC and the Archaeological Society of BC, it’s really where our hearts lie! Your ongoing support and encouragement is the exact reward we love so much for our efforts. Many, many, many thanks kind sir!

      • avatar ehpem says:

        I’ve just been volunteering on an archaeological project in Haida Gwaii for a couple of weeks, and starting tomorrow will be posting about that trip. I am not at liberty to post pictures of people at work (they are all still in the field and off the grid, so can’t be asked), nor am I sure of which results I can publish on the blog, so my shots will be of the associated scenery and goings on around the area we visited.
        I might eventually be able to post some pictures of people at work, but not likely for many weeks.
        One of the household dolls came along with me, and so the quimperhitty blog will also be featuring that trip on and off for the next while.

        • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

          Oh wow, that’s really great Ehpem! We follow both of your blogs so we will be seeing those posts, for sure! Really looking forward to it! It really is wonderful to have a chance to give back, isn’t it, my friend?

          • avatar ehpem says:

            It’s great to give back, though I confess to a lot of self interest in this particular example – a working holiday in Gwaii Haanas National Park with old friends – who wouldn’t jump at the chance?
            The quimperhitty blog is actually my wife’s; sometimes I contribute photos to it, usually she does it all. It’s fun and mutually encouraging for both of us to be blogging and helping each other this way.

          • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

            I’ve been following your wife’s blog for a couple of months now, and just love the uniqueness of it. It’s always a pleasure to visit when I get a new RSS notification. I love how you guys work together; my wife isn’t blogging yet, but she is a huge part of the work we do here at The Hollow and I would not be here without her, that’s for sure. It sounds to me like you’ve found yourself a PERFECT excuse to get out and do some photography while you’re at the National Park there! Nice!! 🙂

  16. It’s great to see this in action! I enjoyed reading this a lot! The work you do has your heart and soul in it and it shows!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wow, Michael, thank you so very, very much! You made our entire day here with your fabulous comments, my friend, we’re so glad you had a chance to pop by and visit us here!