In an effort to keep my mini-adventures interesting I often search for upcoming, preferably free, activities that could be interesting and provide some exercise. The Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum seemed like a perfect match. Two free tours were being offered on each weekend day over two weeks – maximum ten people per tour. I checked with my weekend adventurers who were definitely interested before registering the three of us through Eventbrite. Which nearly found me dropping the whole thing due to the ridiculous process for a free event. Too much information was requested, all three names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were requested (blood type optional) if we wanted confirmation and to print the tickets. Only after all this had been provided did we discover we did not have to print anything, nor were we asked our names on the day we attended.
To ensure a good walk I drove to my sister’s house to put in what we thought would a pleasant 45 minutes. A miscalculation meant we had time to spare to walk further down Fort St. then back up. Fort Street has been known as Antique Road since at least the 1970s. Sadly, most of the quirky stores have since closed their doors as interest in all things old started to wane some years ago. There are now only 2-3 stores left. Wentworth Villa, further up Fort Street, had been one of those quirky shops. I had even visited it once many years ago.
The pink paint was not the original colour; it was chosen to showcase the exterior workmanship.
Central hall. Visitors rarely went beyond the door to the private areas of the home. However, aesthetically pleasing stained glass does give a glimpse of the lovely banister on the stairs beyond. (There are only two stained glass windows, the other is in the attic! No easy access had the renovators think it was there purely for looks.
Only two families ever owned and lived in the Villa. Built in 1863 for Captain Ella, his wife Martha, who would eventually have seven children, and Martha’s aunt. Despite the grandeur quarters would have been quite cramped! Some of the family lived in the house until the 1930s. By the 1940s the home was a bit run down, back taxes were owed and Wentworth Villa was purchased by Faith Grant and her husband – paying 25 years of back taxes. Renovated, with plenty of living space, the antique store next door, and the Grant family were soon relocated to Wentworth Villa. Over time the only changes to house were an extension and paint. It was an antique store until 2012. Sold in 2011 to developers it seemed likely the once grand home where Fort St. met Cadboro Bay Rd. (Over time Fort St. was extended and Cadboro Rd. starts at the border of what is now Oak Bay) was slated to be converted into high end suites. Yet another piece of Victoria’s history lost to the almighty dollar.
The door from the other side.
Note the wood floor in the next room is covered – these are floorboards that are laid across the foundation before the walls go up. Floors were often left unstained in the centre of the room as rugs were used to cover that area.
Fortune must shine on the home as it was sold in 2012 with the purpose of renovating it to become a jewel of the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum. We were taken through the house by Stefan, one of the extremely knowledgeable members. Although he did not say, I was under the impression he is one of the main people involved in ensuring all the work is completed as closely to the original structure as possible. This meant sifting through family photos from the Ella family, one of whom serves on the board, newspaper articles, and of course the fantastic B.C. Archives. After threes years the house has been fully restored and available for visitors.
As soon as I saw this I asked which cemetery it was stolen from. (I had learned of what happened to many missing stones) Ross Bay, the oldest cemetery in Victoria. Our guide said their renovators were quite surprised to discover tombstones used as paving stones. There are others, none as intact as this one. With names and dates in hand, researchers discovered the story of this, and other, individuals whose stones were found. Their stories are included in the history information boards.
Although we have many heritage designated homes in Victoria only four are open to the public. Emily Carr House, and Ross Bay Villa, and Ellice Point House have all been carefully restored, two with the furnishings of the original owners, one refurbished to appear as it would have been when first built. The plan for Wentworth Villa is to refurbish one room in the style of the Ella family. As their mandate is to show as a Museum of Architecture many of the renovated rooms have, or will have, models and information of various homes of architectural interest. In addition to these there is extensive information mounted on the walls about the process to renovate, the families and history of Wentworth Villa.
Royal Doulton sewer pipes. Ships from England used these pipes as ballast then sold them upon arrival to Victoria as no longer needed.
The architects and renovators could not find any blueprints or reason for why there is an arch from this room to the next. Nor did the very small space in between appear to have any functional use.
One of the finials removes while the roof was being repaired; when the initials carved on it were discovered the decision to make a replica to replace it was made and put the original on display.
Of course, all of this work is expensive, visitors will soon be charged to, and the extension put in by the Grants has been renovated as an intimate, acoustically sound, concert space. I checked out the seats – comfortable! The intention is to invite a variety of musical artists from Vancouver Island to perform. Concert goers will get quite a hit to the wallet though, $40.00 seemed to be the main ticket rate. Not terribly expensive if one considers the cost of movies these days. Our one hour tour stretched to nearly two – the passion of our guide was infectious as well as extensive! His mention of a few other familiar homes was interesting – one of which my daughter had lived in. Check out their growing website, http://www.wentworthvilla.com
bottom of one of the posts holding the house up.
Right hand side of the photo is where these posts were in the ground.
After our walk and two hours at the Villa we were all very hungry. With the house on the outskirts of Fairfield we headed down to Cook St. Village, to me the heart of Fairfield,where there are many choices of eateries, a few I have been fortunate to have already tried. Knowing there would be choices my daughter could have we headed to Bubby’s Kitchen. This place seems to be always busy. We were quickly seated at the end of the communal table (I think these are a great idea) and handed breakfast and lunch menus. My sister was disappointed to be told her choice of smoked salmon croissant had run out of croissants and found her half order Westcoast Benny on a tea biscuit expensive and not as tasty as she had hoped. I had the Falafel Naan Wrap. With French fries at the insistence of my sister – she wanted to share them. I was very pleased with the choice, after our server made the suggestion when I could not decide between that and another dish. Only ate half – carried the rest in a recyclable box for my dinner later. (No recollection of what my daughter had, just that she also took home leftovers)
Those boxes became a nuisance at times. I proposed we head to the ocean at the end of the street before veering off to Moss St. in the hope of seeing the cheery blossoms in full bloom. Moss Street is the best place for visitors in Victoria during cherry blossom season. They were still not in full show mode. Then to Rockland Ave where there are many grand old homes as well as the Lt. Governor’s House. We took a short stroll through the public park inside before wending our way back to the street. We had planned to find one house mentioned during our tour, too bad we recalled the street incorrectly. No matter, we were in very familiar territory, the weather was only slightly chilly and windy, and we were feeling hearty.
Keeping a watchful eye on everything.
On the way I discovered a little wonderland on the edges of one home. Such a delightful sight.
By the time we returned to my car we had walked nearly 14km! (I faithfully wore my knee brace until back at the car – it only helps a very little) No wonder I was tired. My daughter and I put in another 2km shopping before heading home. Another stress free, very little driving, adventure.