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Station: Echoes of British Children
It sits on the prettiest street in the valley, just down the block from the house with a colossal, leafless tree supporting a twin-rope swing with a two-by-four as a seat
Cowichan Station’s heritage Lady Houston House is also the place Denise and Constantine (Connie) Razis call home.
The couple bought the house a few years back on the very same day they saw it because they simply fell in love with it, said Denise.
“Well, we wanted a character home...,” she began.
“....and this place has a feeling to it, a feel-good vibe,” said Connie, finishing her sentence the way couples sometimes do. “It’s very traditional, the layout, and it just feels right, simple as that.”
“And, of course, we had all this inherited furniture from grandparents and parents,” Denise continued, gesturing to antique tables, sideboards and other furniture in the dining and living rooms. “We thought this shabby chic stuff will fit in here just fine.”
The house, located at 4775 Fairbridge Dr., in Cowichan Station was originally built during the Great Depression as part of a larger community, the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School for disadvantaged British kids.
For nearly 18 years, the farm was home to about 350 children, ages four and up from places like Newcastle, Glasgow and other distressed industrial cities.
Many of the youngsters were selected from welfare institutions, but heartsick parents also surrendered children to the program with the hope Canada would offer educational and economic advantages not available in their respective countries.
Fairbridge Farm School originally boasted 14 cottages, each large enough to shelter a dozen children and their resident cottage mother. The principal had his own house, and staff had quarters. A chapel, hospital, school and, of course, the massive dairy farm fleshed out the fledgling community.
Built in1935, the Razis’ brawny, solidly built four-bedroom home with chest-high wainscoting, Douglas fir floors and feel-good vibe is now for sale. Arriving at the determination to sell was excruciating, said Denise.
Ultimately, Connie’s failing health was the determining factor, Denise said.
“It took us a long time to come to the decision. I’ve always been very happy here. I really want somebody who really falls in love with the place to buy it.”
There is much to fall in love with in the converted dormitory, which backs onto a wooded area that slopes to a creek.
There’s the formal dining area that flows seamlessly into the living room to create a wonderful gathering for casual get-togethers with neighbours, drinks with pals or a family Christmas.
“The acoustics are ideal,” Connie said.
Evidence of close attention to the build is unmistakable in just about every nook and cranny of the home, from the master bedroom with a massive walk -in closet to the cozy den with a wood-burning fireplace to the staircase — with a landing almost large enough to host a flash mob — leading to the upstairs, it’s clear this is a home that was built to last.
Yet one of the neatest things is outside the home, past the large, covered outdoor deck, down the gravel path to a 600 square-foot building that once served as Fairbridge’s laundry facilities, now a storage area and workshop.
Receding funds and dwindling interest forced the closure of Fairbridge in 1952, and there’s little evidence left of the hundreds of youngsters who once ate, slept, learned and prayed there.
But look up, up into the roof of the old laundry and you just might hear echoes of children’s laughter as you read some of their names, carved into the wood rafter with such attention so long ago.
Fairbridge Chapel Heritage Society supplied source information for this article.