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. 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 Roedde family grew to include six children and three St. Bernard dogs, a houseful indeed. Some of the great-grandchildren of this 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 as G.A. Roedde Printers (under new ownership), providing custom print jobs to establishments throughout the Lower Mainland, including historic Roedde House itself.
Watch Video: Vancouver’s Pioneers of Print
Learn more about two pioneers of print: Gustav Roedde and Lam Lat Tong.
Mathilda and Gustav’s oldest (living) daughter Emma married Arthur Cather in 1909. They went to live in another part of the city and had two daughters Emma Gwendolyn (Gwen) and Kathleen Frances Cather (Kay). During World War I in 1914, Arthur went overseas and Emma moved back into Roedde House with her daughters from 1914 to 1919. Gwen and Kay would go on to give interviews on what life was like, living in Roedde House, during the War Years.
The Roedde family lived in the house until 1924, when they moved to a new house in Point Grey on Drummand Drive. By the time the Roeddes left the West End neighbourhood, it was no longer an area of single-family homes. Owners were converting their houses into suites or rooms for boarders, and this is what happened to the Roedde House. The house was became a rooming and boarding house known as The Oehlerking Rooms. During the Great Depression, the house was home to a window named Mrs. Martha Somerville, who continued to take in boarders. After World War II, the house was eventually purchased by the City for use as low-cost rental accommodation, and eventually leased to a landlord who collected rents from a series of tenants, while patrolling the house and garden with his nine cats.
Watch Video: A Window to the Past
Watch the “A Window to the Past” 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.