Roedde House Restoration
The sequence of events that led to preservation and restoration of Roedde House started in 1966 when the City of Vancouver Parks Board purchased the 2.3 acre block between Broughton and Nicola, Barclay and Haro. Initially the intention was to demolish all seventeen buildings on the block, known as Park Site 19, and develop a flat open, green park. Thirteen years later the Board reluctantly found that it could not carry out its original intentions. It had not anticipated the community's kinship with its heritage buildings or the City's decision to designate Roedde House to a "heritage" building in 1976.
In 1979, Barry Downs Park Site 19: A Proposal outlined twelve of the seventeen buildings on the block (Roedde House included) be retained. After evaluation of the condition and value of the buildings, the final result has been that nine buildings have been retained. The parks restored and renovated housing component on Haro Street was to consist of three frame houses dating from 1901 to 1908. The three identical houses on Broughton, from 1903, with hipped roofs and dormer windows, were likewise earmarked for retention. Together these six buildings were to provide rental housing for West End families with moderate incomes. Roedde House, Barclay Manor and the Gorge Weeks House, all from the 1980s, were to have public uses as spaces for social and cultural activities.
The initial restorative work on Roedde house was virtually unseen - underneath the house, in the crawl space. What followed was more spectacular: the removal of the asphalt shingles covering the roof and their replacement by shingles of cedar. Painting of the house exterior followed.
In December 1984 the Roedde House Preservation Society was formed to initiate the interior restoration of Roedde House. This society continues on to the present day, now operating the house as a museum.
The fundamental work on the heating and plumbing systems, as well as the installation of sprinklers and alarms, quite literally tore Roedde House apart. The Building Code stated the necessity of two washrooms downstairs, slotted into the suite area (formerlly Gustav Roedde's den). Fir floorboards were pried up and paneling was removed so that a series of contractors could insert the necessary piping, wires and insulating material. Control panels for all the systems were wedged into the small closet in Matilda's bedroom.
Into this disarray, and with much gusto, stepped Tom Adair, a building contractor, with a team of eight young people, most of whom were inexperienced in restoration - the result of the Society arranging for a five-month British Columbia government "Job Trac" program. Adair's enthusiasm for the project was catching. Under his watchful eye the team set to work and carefully removed and numbered the pieces of cedar paneling and moldings in the parlour and front hall, so the dark treacle finish could be stripped off all these surfaces. One team member photographed and documented each step in this 'before' stage.
A carpenter was subsequently employed to reinstall all the numbered pieces of cedar paneling and moldings. He turned out to be a one-man band, whose motto was "I can do anything." For several years, he worked at Roedde House on and off, as funds permitted. Besides replacing the moldings and paneling, this ingenious craftsman, Felix, modified the abandoned doors from the demolished houses to fit some empty doorways, then replaced missing locks, hinges and handles. He made the sash windows function again, many having been glued shut with layers of paint, or having had their cords and weights broken, causing them to hopelessly collapse when opened. The last act of Filix was to install a new finial on top of the cupola, to conform with the fine nature of Rattenbury's design.
On May 12, 1990 the Roedde House Museum was officially opened by then Mayor Gordon Campbell, who cut a ribbon strung across the open front door and led the crowd assembled on the front lawn into the house.
Enjoy exploring the following pages to see the restoration process that lead to the present Roedde House Museum, 1415 Barclay Street, part of the Barclay Herritage Square in Vancouvers West End.
- More than a House, Janet Bingham
- Pictures and Documentation by Job Trac team