Friends Of The Roeder Home

Picture of Roeder Home

September 14, 2009


Thanks to you, to the many people who spread the word, and all of the generous community folks who attended, our cider pressing fund raiser on Sunday September 13th at Dave and Kari Street's beautiful farm in Ferndale was an amazing success. Over the course of the sun-drenched, music-filled, apple-dropping day we raised over $2,000.00! This money will be used directly for arts programming operating costs. Our community clearly believes in the importance of the Roeder Home and is also demonstrably committed to providing arts programming that is representative of our cultural diversity and is affordable to all. Thank you for your support of Friends of the Roeder Home!

Call for Volunteers - February 25, 2009

Please email me if you would be willing to volunteer time or effort 
to help keep public cultural activities available at the Roeder 
Home.  I will start creating a volunteer roster.  Even small amounts 
of time from many people add up to a lot.  Please also email the 
County Council and Pete Kremen to let them know you are willing to 
volunteer.  They need to know the public hasn't forgotten about the 
Roeder Home, and that we're willing to do our part.  We'll run it 
with match sticks and glue and YOU.

Help with opening, closing, cleaning (bunch of that!), probably some 
garden care (Parks plans to mow the lawn).  Help with mentoring and 
hosting programs, inviting groups to collaborate, to create new 
gatherings there or reinvigorate old ones.  Help envision or organize 
groups or events to draw in children, young adults, elders, folks 
interested in arts, history, storytelling, music, crafts, old home 
maintenance, what can YOU imagine? Help fundraising or grant 
writing.  Or just be willing to help - once, or once a year, or 
monthly, or weekly, or whatever.

And the Home needs help from all these volunteers to write or email 
Pete Kremen and our County Council to let them know there are 
volunteers ready to step forward if they'll just give us a 
chance.  Ask Pete and the Council to act on the interim 
recommendations submitted by the Task Force on February 11 and 
February 23, printed below.

Parks Director Mike McFarlane has requested that you send all emails 
to Pete & the Council through his office,, 
with a subject line of "Roeder Home."  I think that would be a lovely 
idea, but it might also be good to send a copy to me.  We've observed 
information getting lost in Mike's office and it would be a shame to 
lose any volunteers or good ideas!

Mike McFarlane & County Executive Pete Kremen assure us that the 
Roeder Home is still open.  They seem outraged that I would say 
publicly that it is closed.  This is what "open" currently consists 
of, according to Rob Bunnett, of County Parks:  three classes, which 
all end by next the first week of March.  Five rentals for all of 
2009 by private parties.  That's all.  There is no plan for outreach 
to anyone to get anything else going.

Mike McFarlane told the Task Force at an recent meeting that he 
considered the Home  legally "open" if it was available for rentals 
for private parties, as long as members of the public were permitted 
to walk on the grounds to look at the building from outside.  I 
checked with other Task Force members earlier this week to see if 
they had also heard him say that, and they had.  If that's not what 
you think of as Open, you'll need to let Pete & the Council hear from 
you.  As always, remember to be polite!  Our job is to win them over, 
not bully them.

Here is the list Rob sent me:
*An Adult Water Color Class has been offered on Tuesday mornings from 
early January through the first week in March.

*A Creative Dramatics Class for Kids has been offered Wednesday 
afternoon throughout the month of February

*A Creative Kids Arts Class has been offered Wednesday morning from 
late January to the first week in March.

At this point there are no classes scheduled for the Spring quarter, 
but Parks is open to offering classes on a contract basis with 
interested instructors.

The Roeder Home continues to be rented for private gathering and 
business meetings. At this point a total of five individuals and 
organizations have booked the facility in 2009.
I'm not sure whether the final two Roeder Home concerts were counted 
as two of those rentals.  If so, there are only two reservations left 
for the entire year, and those are for private parties.

Together we can accomplish wonderful things!  Shall we see what we can do here?

2518 Cherry Street
Bellingham WA 98225


February 19, 2009

The Roeder Home is closed. An open house proposed for February 28 has been cancelled. The task force continues to negotiate, but we may well need more of the kind of public action the led to the establishment of the task force. Keep checking.

Task Force Statement, Jan 22, 2009

Dear Friends -

As a member of the Task Force on the Roeder Home, appointed by County Executive Pete Kremen, I write to you to give you an update on the Roeder Home and ask for your assistance. We had our second meeting today and began brainstorming on both opportunities to better utilize the Roeder home, and funding sources for programs and operating costs. We need your help in this process, but first let me give you the good news. Pete Kremen opened our first meeting by announcing Whatcom County Parks will NOT move their administrative offices into the Roeder Home! Not now, and not later!

But the current budget crunch is real and the Task force alone can not meet their charge without help from the community. We need your ideas, and even more, we need your energy. What are you able to dream, and what are you willing to DO - to fill the Roeder Home with life and energy, and to bring in enough money to support that life? What organizations can you help us partner with

Our charge by the County Executive is to do the following in under 90 days: a. Identify methods and opportunities to better utilize the Roeder home for programs, events, public use and the arts. b. Identify alternative strategies and models for program delivery that may be applicable. c. Identify a strategy to fund program and operating costs on a sustainable long term basis in light of future budget restraints and limited County resources d. Make a recommendation to the County Executive

Please contact me or any member of the Task Force, by email, phone, or letter. Contact information is at the end of this message. What you send to me I will share with the rest of the task force unless specifically asked not to. I may not be able to respond to everyone personally. Please be sure to put "Roeder Home" in your subject line.

You're also welcome to attend our meetings at the Roeder Home from 11:00 - 1:00 on Mondays. We reserved public comment periods for the beginning and end of our meetings. Since our time is limited, I recommend talking with individual members outside of meetings for detailed discussions. We also plan at least one Open House at the Roeder Home to welcome in ideas, energy, and explore the house and its possibilities. It's time to get the word out far and wide. We'll keep this website, Friends of The Roeder Home, up-to-date so you can share it.
Whatcom County Parks hopes to have an open comment area for the Roeder Home on its website.

Thank you for your support, your caring, and your participation in our community!

The Roeder Home Task Force

George Thomas, chair

Wendy Setter

Richard Scholtz

Gary Reid

Christine Kendall

Molly Faulkner

Flip Breskin

January 19, 2009

The Task Force has had its first meeting. Here is a draft report.

January 9, 2009

There has not yet been a full meeting of minds. The most severe difficulty has been that groups running programs as volunteers are being treated as outsiders using the Home for non-Parks purposes. Of course, with the current flooding and the recent snowstorm, the county officials have had many more pressing issues to deal with.

December 17, 2008

Read Tim Johnson's article How The Grinch Stole The Roeder Home in the Cascadia Weekly.

December 8 - Donor Account

Now there is an account for donations to Friends Of The Roeder Home at the Industrial Credit Union.

December 1 news

If you have a little extra energy around our beloved community Home, it wouldn't hurt to write thank you notes (or emails) to the elected officials who put themselves out at an extremely inconvenient time to help save the Roeder Home. It was incredibly helpful that Bob Kelly and Seth Fleetwood took the time (in a week they had none to spare) to meet with us, educate themselves, and talk with their fellow County Council members about this issue. And good of Pete to promise to try to find another place for the parks administration. Here's contact information. When our elected officials only here from us when we're mad at them, it eventually gets hard for them to look forward to hearing from us. And when the only people who are nice to them are developers, it's not a good situation....

November 25 news

We are guardedly optimistic. Many people waited through a very long meeting to speak eloquently and passionately in support of the Roeder Home. We have a verbal commitment that a task force will be convened to explore how best to support the house and the arts programs, and that the Council will not proceed with turning it into an administrative office until the task force reports, probably March 27, 2009. More details

November 21 news

We may need as many people as possible to show up at the County Council meeting this coming Tuesday November 25 at 7PM. Check this site on Tuesday morning.

November 18 --Important Article

here to read Sheri Ward on Northwest Citizen

November 12 news

  1. County Parks headquarters has been sold. NOT TRUE Sorry. We got this one wrong.
  2. Word has it that there is plenty of office space downtown that already belongs to the County, including the former Hizzoner's space. It is not necessary for the parks administration to move into the Roeder Home.

November 11 news

The Bellingham City Council voted unanimously last night in favor of protecting the Roeder Home. They asked Louise Bjornson to write a letter on their behalf. Tell 'em, "Thank You!!!"

Talking Points

So far, the County has not sought public comment on this plan. Hard financial times often require tough choices, but It's important that we speak up to let our decision makers know that there needs to be a public discussion about the choices being made -- and the possibility of finding other solutions.

At a time when Whatcom County is asking Bellingham to take as much infill as possible, the County should not simultaneously withdraw resources and amenities. Bellingham residents pay the same level of property taxes to support Whatcom County parks as do other residents of Whatcom County. Trails and general parks are not expected to "pay for themselves" through revenues. Why should the Roeder Home be different? We need public input on which County Parks facilities should deserve subsidies and which should pay for themselves.

The Roeder Home is the only local historic residence that is open to the public.

The deed of gift by which Mrs. Keyes gave the home to the County requires that it be used "exclusively for the use and enjoyment of the public for park purposes or for use as a museum or historical site or other similar public use." It further requires that the county return the building to the heirs if it is not used in this way. This change definitely goes against the spirit of the donation.
Here are links to scanned-in copied of the deed of gift as Adobe pdf files.
gift deed 1
gift deed 2

The Holiday Arts & Crafts Sale brings around $50,000 each year in sales, so shutting it down would be a huge loss of income for local artists. In addition, the Home Made Music Society concerts audiences contribute another $5,000 - $8,000 at the door, plus CD sales.

Arts programming will be dropped in favor of "renting basement classrooms to individual teachers." We have been told this will let programs continue and that the public will see very little impact. At the same time, some teachers have been told they will be charged as much as $135 per evening in rent. Classes, workshops and groups cannot possibly continue there at such a cost.

Events like the Holiday Arts & Crafts Sale, Home Made Music Society concerts and music circles, and Whatcom In Bloom are County Parks programs that could not happen without lots of donated time by dedicated and knowledgeable community members: the programs have been subsidized by both the County and by the community. The dollars that the County spends on these programs are only a fraction of the real cost of putting them on. The way this is currently being handled -- let alone the decision itself -- will make that volunteer energy go away. The community will lose not only the programs, but long-term relationships and a spirit of collaboration which have taken decades to build.

They claim the County will save $153K per year by eliminating the arts program. This figure folds in operating and maintenance expenses for the building itself. Are they intending any maintenance for the building and grounds? There has been no request for community or city collaboration in preserving the building or the program.

Because the Roeder Home is on the local and National Register of Historic Places, uses and changes to the Home come under the review of the Bellingham Historic Preservation Commission. Building modifications need to be permitted. What modifications would be made to the Home in the process of setting up Reception on the main floor? What holes in lovely old woodwork? What loss of period integrity? What damage will they do to the historic building in running cables, installing internal locks on office doors, or rolling office chairs around?

The county also owns the residence behind the Roeder Home. It might, more easily, be converted to offices, while leaving the Roeder Home intact. The garage has already been rewired for a conversion into heated classroom space, and could easily be turned into office space as well. On the other hand, none of the Roeder Home property is zoned for offices and their associated parking, and this may be a major issue in any conversion.

A new, cost saving idea is always attractive to those who steward the public purse, yet a decision to remove the Roeder Home from public arts usage may, in the long term, short-change our community. Arts are one of the most important things that keep our communities vibrant and strong, and help our citizens connect with richness and spirit that are often unattainable in our daily lives. The arts define Bellingham as a unique community and the Roeder Home has been a key player in incubating our arts community, having been the original home to Allied Arts, the Kulshan Chorus, and the Home Made Music Society.


  1. Write paper letters and make phone calls to County officials. Send a paper letter as a back-up because officials are consistently overwhelmed with emails and can't read them all. Write letters to the editor. Use your own words! They are by far the most effective ones. Please email us a copy as well. Phone calls to elected officials are really good, as long as they are polite.
  2. Donate money for legal fees and printing expenses. We need to raise about $600 to start with. We will be setting up an account for Friends Of The Roeder Home at WECU this afternoon. If we wind up with any surplus funds, we will donate them to the Roeder Home to support arts programming (assuming we manage to save it).


As always, when you contact public officials, it is VERY important to be polite!!! Our job is to win people over, not to bully them.

Get In Touch With Us

The Honorable Pete Kremen, County Executive

Whatcom County Council:
311 Grand Avenue, Suite 105
Bellingham, Washington 98225

Council members may also be e-mailed as a group at or individually at their e-mail addresses listed below. If you send your comments to the council members individually, also send a copy to the Council e-mail address so your comments are included in the official record. A paper letter backup is needed because of the overwhelming number of emails they receive. Your email will get there first, but your paper letter is certain to be read. Polite phone calls are great.

Seth Fleetwood

Ward Nelson

Bob Kelly

Laurie Caskey-Schreiber

Sam Crawford or

Carl Weimer

Barbara Brenner

Let City Council members and mayor Pike know you would appreciate their help on this issue.City Council voted unanimously on November 10 to send a letter to the County Council asking them preserve the Roeder Home as is. They do not actually have any control on this issue, but they deserve our enthusiastic thanks for weighing in positively!

Mayor Dan Pike
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham WA 98225

Bellingham City Council
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham WA 98225

Jack Weiss

Gene Knutson

Barry Buchanan

Stan Snapp

Terry Bornemann

Barbara Ryan

Louise Bjornson

Original Statement Of Purpose

County Parks plans to is seeking a way not to convert the Roeder Home from a dedicated arts facility to the Whatcom County Parks administrative offices on the 2nd & 3rd floors, with some event rentals only on the main floor and in the basement. They intend intended to move in by this coming January. The holiday arts & crafts sale will would be eliminated, along with parks sponsorship of concerts, classes, workshops and events. The public will would lose access to an extraordinary historic building, an incubator for the local arts community, and the only county park within city limits.

Friends Of The Roeder Home

We are a collection of people who use and love the Roeder Home. To get on our email list, please email It would help us if you mentioned "Roeder Home email List" in the subject line.
To volunteer, make donations, or comment on the content of this website, get in touch with:

Flip Breskin

George Thomas

Richard Scholtz

To comment on typos, broken links, and web issues, contact the webmaster, Zeke Hoskin.