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Heritage Register
Fairfield

1490 Fairfield Road
Ross Bay Villa

Built 1865
Heritage-Designated 2000

For: Charles Buxton

Architect: attributed to John Wright & George Sanders

1490 Fairfield

ARCHITECTURE:

A 1-storey Colonial Cottage with Gothic Revival features, this charming house is finished in bevelled siding and features one gable on three sides and two on the rear. The front has an angled bay. The west side has an open and slightly recessed porch with turned Gothic-style columns supporting a gable roof with a Gothic trefoil gable screen. The entrance door, finely panelled and with sidelights and transom, is framed with pilasters matching the porch columns. All the main gables have prominent turned finials with pendants. Most sashes are 6-over-6 double-hung and are notable for the fineness of the muntins. The dining room has a 6-over-6 facing south and a tripartite window facing east. Chimneys are red brick with corbelled caps and one is a rare split stack chimney, a feature of some 1860s Wright & Sanders homes. The kitchen across the back has lower ceilings and a shed roof. The front garden has three old fruit trees and the front entrance path is laid out around a circular garden bed edged in Gothic-style tiles, the originals of which were found during archaeological exploration of the site.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

The house that became known as Ross Bay Villa was built on land originally owned by Isabella Ross. This land was part of a large farm that also included what is now the Ross Bay Cemetery. Isabella began selling off her land when an influx of settlers arrived in Victoria following the 1858 gold rush. This particular piece went through several owners, ending up with Charles Buxton, who then leased or rented the 1.876 acre plot to Francis James Roscoe in 1865.

It may have been Buxton who actually built the house, as an investment, as it was from the Buxton estate that the property was later purchased.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:

Francis (c.1830-1878) and Anna Letitia (Le Breton, c.1835-1922) Roscoe arrived from England in 1862 and at first lived on Pioneer St in North Park. Newspaper and other records indicate that the family was in the new house on Fairfield Rd by the summer of 1865 as that is where their daughter was born Aug 21. Frank became one of Victoria’s first MPs in 1874 to 1878, along with Amor De Cosmos. He was asked to stand down in September 1878 so that John A. Macdonald, who had lost his own seat, could run in a safe Conservative riding and return to Parliament to be once again Prime Minister.

The Roscoes’ last son was born in August of 1878. Frank by this time was suffering from serious mental depression and he killed himself with a pistol on Dec 20. He is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery. Anna and children returned to England after Frank’s death.

The property was purchased in May 1880 from Buxton’s estate by Rowland (1848-1917) and Elizabeth Maude (Le Clerc) Green and it was they who named the house Ross Bay Villa. The Greens then rented it to George Winter from 1884-89. Winter was coachman to the colonial governor and later to the new province’s lieutenant-governor. He ran his business and pastured his horses from the property.

Rowland Green moved to Vancouver in 1889 and Winter bought the property at that time, although he did not immediately use it for his family’s home.

Harvey (1860-1922) and Margaret (Wray, 1859-1915) Combe (1564 Rockland Av ) became tenants in 1889 and their daughter Nora (1889-was born there soon afterwards. The Combes were champion golfers and founding members of the Victoria Golf Club. Harvey was honoured in 1995 in a series of stamps portraying five of Canada’s greatest golf courses.

By 1892 the Winter family was in residence and in 1909 the #6 Foul Bay streetcar line opened along Fairfield Rd, converting it from a country lane to a busy thoroughfare. George Winter (b. 1839) died in 1911 and his property was quickly subdivided into lots in what was now a rapidly developing suburb. Winter’s widow Janet moved to a new house on one of the lots at 342 Arnold Av (Fairfield).

The new occupant of Ross Bay Villa was John Mortimer (c.1842-1921), a stonemason, who probably leased it from Janet Winter. Mortimer lived there with his daughter Adela (c.1873-1964), and his business, Mortimer’s Stone Works, was next door. Mortimer’s son, Arthur, and his wife Isabel built a new house nearby at 1328 Carnsew St (Fairfield) in 1911. Mortimer died in 1921 and Adela then purchased the property. She moved in with Arthur and Isabel on Carnsew, and rented Ross Bay Villa to blacksmith John Wallace until c.1925 but no tenant after that date is known until Fanny Nelson (Ilven, 1886-1981) and Walter Walmsley Shorrock (1885-1961) moved there in 1928. Mortimer’s Stone Works had become a corner store by this time, conveniently close to the streetcar stop.

Ownership of Ross Bay Villa then passed to Ida May Langford (Slack, 1879-1964), in 1931. Her husband Walter Frederick (1873-1947) was a stationary engineer. Ida lived on in the house until 1952 when she sold it to John Raymond and Elizabeth Mary Hewison, who raised their five children here.

The Foul Bay streetcar line was now named Gonzales and it was very busy serving the growing area. However, the introduction of a bus line in 1945 led to the demise of the streetcar and in 1947-48 the tracks were removed. In this post-war era the market gardens to the east and north of Ross Bay Villa became the Fairfield Plaza (1958) and the corner store beside the villa was replaced with a new doctor’s office in 1968.

The Hewisons maintained the property until eventually selling it in 1988 to a group of six businessmen, three of whom were descendants of former owner George Winter. The new owners hoped to develop it as a neighbourhood pub but failed to get a permit. They kept the property and there were various tenants in the house for the next 10 years. Fortunately the house remained structurally sound and its trees survived.

Ross Bay Villa was purchased in 1999 by The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC), saving the house from demolition, and the long process of restoration began. A great deal has been accomplished in the past decade by a team of volunteers (with some expert assistance). The Canada Day open-house at Ross Bay Villa is now a popular annual event
.
On July 1 2009 a very special guest was welcomed. Robin Barrow came from Chicago to honour the first occupants of Ross Bay Villa, his great-great-grandparents, Frank and Anna Roscoe.

In 2015 The Land Conservancy sold Ross Bay Villa to the Ross Bay Villa Society, after a successful fundraising effort. The Ross Bay Villa Historic House Museum is open for public tours on Saturdays.

In
2016 the Ross Bay Villa Society was awarded Heritage BC's Outstanding Achievement Award for Heritage Conservation.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:

• Ross Bay Villa Historic House Museum website

• Fairfield History

• Fairfield Heritage Register

• Hallmark Heritage Society Archives

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Four: Fairfield, Gonzales & Jubilee


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