Roedde House was built for Gustav and Matilda Roedde in 1893. Its design is generally attributed to the early B.C. architect, Francis Rattenbury, notable for the Legislative Buildings and Empress Hotel in Victoria. The architectural style is “Queen Anne revival”, incorporating a cupola, bay windows, upstairs porch, and downstairs verandas.
At the urging of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, the house was designated a “heritage building” in 1976. In the early 1980s the City, with the assistance of the Heritage Canada Foundation and the B.C. Heritage Trust, restored the exterior of the house. In 1984 the Roedde House Preservation Society was formed to implement the interior restoration of the house.
Work on the interior was painstaking, with faithful attention to detail gleaned from historical records, from consultation with surviving members of the Roedde family and from the process of stripping paint and wallpaper from century-old walls to discover the original colours and finishings. The downstairs of the house was then authentically furnished with all the accoutrements of middle-class life in the 1890s. In March of 2000 the restoration of the second floor of the Museum, comprising boys’ and girls’ bedrooms, and Matilda’s sewing room, further enhanced the portrayal of turn-of-the-century family life.
The Roedde Family
Gustav Roedde was born in 1860 in Grossbodungen, Thuringen, Germany, and trained as a bookbinder in Leipzig. He immigrated to the United States in 1881 and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he met and married Matilda Marie Cassebohm, who was from the island of Heligoland, Germany. The couple moved to San Francisco, California, then Victoria, British Columbia and finally to Vancouver where, in 1888, Gustav opened the city’s first bookbindery. In the following decades, Vancouver grew and flourished; so too did Mr. Roedde’s business. By 1893, the Roeddes could afford to have a new house built at 1415 Barclay Street.
Eventually the family grew to include six children and three St. Bernard dogs, a houseful indeed. Some of the great-grandchildren of this pioneer family still live and work in Vancouver and maintain a proud and active interest in the House. The binding and printing company that Mr. Roedde founded over a hundred years ago continues to operate as G.A. Roedde Printers (under new ownership), providing custom print jobs to establishments throughout the Lower Mainland, including historic Roedde House itself.
Watch the "A Window to the Past" video before visiting Roedde House. It introduces two of the Roedde granddaughters, Gwen and Kay, who were little girls in the 1910s. Their memories give us a wonderful glimpse into this bygone era and reinforce the importance of oral history and of capturing the recollections of elders.