Location: Vancouver, Canada
Category: Museum, Local History
The Roedde House Museum is a Victorian house museum in the West End neighbourhood of Vancouver, Canada on the traditional, ancestral, shared territory of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. The house was built for the family of Vancouver’s first bookbinder, Gustav Roedde, in 1893. Gustav immigrated from Germany 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. The couple moved to San Francisco, California, then Victoria, British Columbia and finally to Vancouver where in 1888 he opened Vancouver’s first bookbindery. 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. The family lived in this house from 1893 until 1924, after which time it became a rooming and boarding house.
The house design is generally attributed to early BC 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 a Class A Heritage House, owned by the City of Vancouver. Its 1976 heritage designation catalyzed the restoration and development of the entire Barclay Heritage Square. This monumental undertaking involved many dedicated groups and individuals, including the citizens of the residential West End neighbourhood. The Roedde House Preservation Society was established in 1984 to undertake the restoration and furnishing of the interior of the house to reflect the ambience of late Victorian family life. In 1990 the museum was officially opened to the public. It explores what life was like for the Roedde family, during their time living in the house.
The Roedde House Preservation Society is dedicated to preserving, maintaining and enhancing the Roedde House Museum. It is also dedicated to presenting heritage exhibits and programs reflecting the early history of Vancouver for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Since the Museum’s official opening in May 1990, the Roedde House Preservation Society has run Roedde House as a threefold facility for guided tours and an active school program; a venue for music and community entertainment; and a rental facility for small receptions and creative projects.
The planning, coordination and overall management are carried out by the Board of Directors and the House Manager. Financial support comes from the Provincial Government in the form of an annual Direct Access grant, revenue from rentals, donations, admission and membership fees. As well, over the years, specific projects have been possible with the help of foundations and private sector funding.
The museum exists to make history more tangible and relatable in the modern age while serving the community and fostering an appreciation for heritage preservation.
Supported by the City of Vancouver, this West End location offers an immersive experience for visitors. Each visitor can explore the house and walk from room to room, exploring what life for the Roedde family was like over 100 years ago. The museum offers a novel experience for the visitors. Unlike other museums, the rooms are not behind rope and items are not behind glass. Each room feels as though a family member has just walked out of it. Every one of the eleven rooms has been outfitted with heirlooms, artefacts, and items from the period, which were gathered over the years, some even being donated by descendants of the Roedde family. Experienced guides will be glad to impart their insight and stories to you. For anyone wanting a self-guided tour, there are multilingual paper guides offered in French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Korean, German, Japanese, or English. The tour has also been made accessible online with self-guided options that include a recorded audio tour.
Adapting to new technologies was an important push for Roedde House’s team. Finding ways to allow visitors to explore the house, regardless of if they could come in person. The VR Voyage partnership allowed the Museum to host virtual tours of the collections and the historical context of the house within the City. The Museum has always focused on storytelling, and now with The VR Voyage, these stories can be told to a wider audience. From room to room, the tour experience is brought to life through an interactive and engaging virtual tour. The collaboration between the Roedde House Museum and The VR Voyage has made it easier to enjoy the heritage behind this historic house from any location in the world.