Roedde House Museum
(click photos to enlarge)
Roedde House, an iconic West End landmark and one of British Columbia’s heritage house museums, is a classic late-Victorian home. Built in 1893 for the family of Gustav Roedde , the city's first bookbinder, and his wife Matilda, it has been faithfully restored to reflect the day-to-day life of a middle class, immigrant family at the end of the 19th century.
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.
The house is owned by the City of Vancouver and, at the urging of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, was designated a “heritage building” by the City in 1976, which served as a catalyst for the restoration and development of the entire Barclay Heritage Square.
This monumental undertaking involved many dedicated groups and individuals, including many citizens of the West End neighbourhood.
In the early 1980s the City, with the assistance of the Heritage Canada Foundation and the B.C. Heritage Trust, a restoration of the exterior of the house was completed. 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.
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.
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, under new ownership, as G.A. Roedde Printers.
The Museum offers a unique experience for visitors: unlike many heritage houses, the rooms are not roped off or behind glass, and some of the artefacts may be handled with care. Each of the eleven rooms has been furnished with artefacts and period items, which were collected over the years, some returned by the Roedde family. Experienced docents will be happy to share their knowledge and stories with you.
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.
If you wish to go at your own pace, you may use the multilingual information cards you will find in each room of the house. They are available in: English, French, German, Spanish. Italian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. These are also accessible using our Self Guided Tour.
Drop by the museum shop afterwards and learn even more about Roedde House Museum.
Group tours are by appointment only. For information and bookings, call 604.684.7040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more about Roedde House, it’s rental facilities (perfect for weddings), tours, and special events, visit their website here.