There was a major fire in 1886 in Vancouver’s original Gastown neighborhood. Settlement moved west to what is now called the West End. The land was taken from the First Nations Musqueam tribe, and the neighborhood became an elite area of the city stretching from Burrard Street to Stanley Park. Today, it’s a densely populated neighborhood of high rises, hotels, and narrow streets.
German-born Gustav Roedde and his wife Matilda moved from Cleveland, Ohio, to California and then to Victoria, BC before settling in Vancouver where they decided to invest in an upper-middle class house in the West End. Gustav was a successful bookbinder. In fact, his company is still in existence, now a printing company. The Late Queen Anne Revival house they built with an octagonal parlor is no millionaire’s mansion but may have been designed by architect/friend Francis Rattenbury. Francis also created Victoria’s famous Empress Hotel. He was murdered by his wife’s teenage lover in 1935. Francis’ head received many blows from a carpenter’s mallet.
The Roedde’s moved in with their six children and 3 Saint Bernard dogs shortly after the construction that began in 1893 ended. Three family tragedies followed. The Roedde’s oldest daughter died at the age of 5 after eating some berries. Her mother was arrested and charged with poisoning her daughter but was found not guilty. The house’s play and homework area was damaged in 1913 when a Christmas tree caught fire. Several years later another of Gustav and Matilda’s children, Anna Catherine, switched shifts with another nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital and was stabbed to death by a mental patient who mistook Anna for the nurse she subbed for. The Roedde’s lived at 1415 Barclay Street for 32 years.
The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation acquired the entire block containing Roedde House in 1996 with plans to demolish a lot of what was on it. Vancouverites reacted negatively, Roedde House was given a Heritage Designation, and the block became a park with houses in it that by 1980 had become Barclay Heritage Square. Nine houses built between 1890 and 1908 were chosen for preservation and restoration. Roedde, which had been a rooming house for a while, was one of them. It was redone as faithfully to Vancouver Victorian times as was possible. Four Compass guided tours are available.