We love our history on Vancouver Island and on the West Coast of Canada, and we particularly love our history in the context of our wonderful and unique architecture. We were absolutely delighted to meet Magdalena and Stefan Opalski more than a year ago, and learn of their plans to fully restore Wentworth Villa, one of Victoria’s most prized heritage homes, and then turn it into a museum that celebrates these homes here and in the Pacific Northwest. As time went on, we visited as much as we could during the work phase, slowly watching their dream turn into reality as one of the city’s most important heritage landmarks found new life.
Wentworth Villa is located in the very heart of Victoria city, being one of only a handful of original homes that were designed and created during the early years of settlement in the greater Victoria area. Designed and built in 1863 this wonderful home features a wide variety of lovely architectural details and features, making it much more than just a house.
Over the course of several years, a team of leading restoration and heritage experts joined the Opalski’s and went through the incredible task of restoring the home to precise and exacting standards. These efforts paid off as the restoration was completed in the spring of 2016, and an invite-only Open House was hosted to laud the work with a VIP guest list and the unveiling of the first exhibit. Visit the History – Wentworth Villa page to learn more.
We were honored to be invited to the Open House where The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005), and Lisa Helps, the current mayor of Victoria, were both in attendance to celebrate. It was really amazing to see the incredible turnout, and to be actively involved in this truly exciting project.
It is also highly noteworthy to mention that the house and its subsequent restoration resulted in Wentworth Villa receiving the 2016 Winner of Outstanding Achievement Award for Heritage Conservation from the Heritage BC 35th Anniversary Awards. This is a highly prestigious award that speaks to the impeccable level of work done on the restoration.
The first home exhibited in the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum is the Biggerstaff-Wilson home, designed by famous architect Samuel Maclure. Mr. Maclure is well-known for his many designs that exhibit his architectural style, including Hatley Castle, a place we’ve visited and photographed often over the years. Originally designed and built in 1905 it was appointed heritage status in 1982, and today this privately owned residence is a beautiful example of a Tudor Revival style house that is symbolic of the early architecture of the region. It casts a dramatic and beautiful presence in the area it inhabits in the city of Victoria, surrounded by other classic and historic designs that give the entire district a distinct feel that expresses the character of our Victorian city.
In the fall of 2015 we were invited to photograph the model you see here, an exquisite scale-model representation of the home pictured above. Countless hours were tirelessly spent over the course of well over a year as this model was carefully designed and constructed, with the intention of it being the centerpiece for the first exhibit within the museum at its opening. We spent over 4 hours one afternoon carefully photographing the model and were honored to have our work featured on one of the posters on display at the Open House this spring.
This is where the first chapter in the story of the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum ends and the second chapter begins.
With the restoration of Wentworth Villa now complete and it’s Opening Day behind us, we look forward to the wonderful exhibits and events this stately facility will host. The Grand Hall in the venue is a perfect location for exhibits, lectures and intimate concerts, and the first such event is the Sara Davis Buechner Recital being hosted on May 15th at 2:30PM.
Now that the museum is officially open, it’s important for the community to show support by attending the various events being hosted here. It’s only through the efforts of fundraising that our community will enjoy the benefits of having such a unique and wonderful museum in the area, dedicated to preserving and featuring the architecture that helps make the city of Victoria what it is today by reaching through to its past. And through these efforts we will see the museum flourish, adding new exhibits and models as time goes on, making this a very special place indeed. One that we plan on revisiting often as we continue to work with the entire group at the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum in helping to promote it and the important exhibits and events it will feature.
REFERENCES, LINKS AND ARTICLES
Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum
Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum – How To Donate
Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum – Sara Davis Buechner Recital
Times-Colonist – Restoring Victoria home a true labour of love
Times-Colonist – Wentworth Villa’s first residents built a Victoria landmark
The Victoria Heritage Foundation
The Victoria Heritage Foundation – Biggerstaff-Wilson House 1770 Rockland Ave.
Canada’s Historic Places – Wentworth Villa