Vancouver: Unceded Land
Before the West End was a neighbourhood, it was still very much a forest with some of the tallest old growth trees in North America. It was also the ancestral hunting grounds of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Coast Salish people for thousands of years. In 2014, the City of Vancouver made a motion to acknowledge that the entire City is on unceded Coast Salish Territory. Unceded Land means that the land was never formally and respectfully yielded and surrendered by its original inhabitants. In the case of Roedde House, these original inhabitants are the Skwxwú7mesh People of BC. Their traditional territory covers the Sunshine Coast and Howe Sound, including land past Whistler, Indian Arm along Burrard Inlet, through False Creek and the West End and English Bay all the way to Point Grey. This includes the land which Roedde House stands on. Therefore, as part of situating the House and the City's history, we acknowledge that we are on Unceded Coast Salish Land. We are grateful to Indigenous People who have cared for this land long before we called it home and we honour their resilience, wisdom and strength.
Roedde House was built in 1893 for Gustav and Matilda Roedde. Gustav emigrated from Germany via the United States to Canada. Matilda was from Heligoland, a British protectorate located off the coast of Denmark. When he finally arrived in Vancouver, Gustav Roedde pursued his chosen profession as a bookbinder and printer. The design of Roedde House is attributed to Francis Mawson Rattenbury, who became a renowned British Columbian architect. Roedde House is Queen Anne Revival in style, an asymmetrical plan with verandas, bay windows and a turret.
When the Roedde family sold this House in 1924, its single-family status changed to that of a "boarding house for male tenants", run by a housekeeper who supplied a daily meal. Later on, as merely a "rooming house", its exterior and interior deterioration became obvious. By the mid 1970's, this pioneer home and others within the Block were earmarked for demolition and the creation of a park. Concerned citizens stepped in and plans were developed for "Barclay Heritage Square" as it exists today, with Roedde House Museum and eight neighbouring houses in a park setting. The City gave Roedde House a Heritage Designation and undertook its exterior restoration.
A newly formed Roedde House Preservation Society started interior restoration and furnishing of the House in 1984 – a painstaking process.
Local West Coast fir and cedar, plentiful and inexpensive in the 1890’s used for the paneling and mouldings and fir floors. During restoration the panelling had been coated with layers of paint and varnish, the floors were ingrained with dirt and the walls were covered with layers of wallpaper. As restoration progressed, the woodwork was stripped and restored to its original mellow cedar and the original turquoise surface of the walls was revealed.
Roedde Family portrait, c. 1896 - including Gustav, Matilda, baby Gus Jr., adopted son Walter, William (Bill) and Emma.
Newel post lamp – "Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn", a spelter figure after the bronze by Moreau. Original to the House and donated to the Museum by the Roedde family. Newel post lamps were common in middle and upper class Victorian homes.
Front stained glass window (original to the House).
Hanging rose glass lamp light from the home of Major Skitt Matthews, Vancouver's first City Archivist. He set about collecting documents and photos about the young city, and interviewed many settlers from all walks of life, along with many First Nations People, the most famouse being August Jack Khatsalano. His collection included over 500,000 items including, photographs, city papers, maps and directories.
The story of the House's famous, and infamous, architect Francis Rattenbury, a visionary who went on to design landmarks such as the Empress Hotel and the Legislative buildings in Victoria, the Vancouver Law Courts (now the Vancouver Art Gallery), and other commercial buildings throughout the province. His life became sordid in the 1920's, resulting in his return to England and his death, by murder, in 1935.