Want to help?

• For information on donating to a new home for the Redmond Museum, visit RedmondMuseum.org or call 541-316-1777.

• Further reading: Visit RedmondSpokesman.com to see Mary Brown’s complete 1966 story on the remarkable life of Trudy Bray, the former German princess and niece of Queen Victoria who gave it all up to marry an American hardware store owner and, eventually, move to Redmond.

Note: This story appeared in the July 26, 2017, Spokesman. The effort to save the house was, ultimately, unsuccessful and it was destroyed in a March 18 controlled training burn.

Princess Helen Augusta Victoria Beatrice Bruckner Von Gotha was born in 1885 in a 300-room castle in the state of Thuringen, in Germany.

She was known as Trudy Bray when she died in 1966 at a 1,200-square-foot house in Redmond.

Now, members of the Greater Redmond Historical Society want to see the house saved.

“This is a valuable historical nugget that very few people know about,” said Judy Fessler, a volunteer with the historical society.

Dick Robertson, who owns the house and neighboring Busy Chef Commercial Kitchen, has festive plans for the site of Bray’s former house at the corner of SW Forest Avenue and SW Fourth Street.

His plans coincide with the historical society’s need to replace the Redmond Museum, which is in the building on SW Seventh Street that housed the former Redmond City Hall.

“He wants to develop this property; we’ve got to move out of the museum,” Fessler said. “It’s a revolving chess match.”

Robertson is offering to sell the house to the historical society for a dollar. It would then have to be moved to another location in town.

“Our biggest situation, right now, is finding a place to move it to,” Fessler said, though she added they have a couple ideas.

“We’re still circling the map,” she said.

Bray grew up a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, one of the wealthiest families in Europe at the time. Her father, Prince Oscar, was their state’s prime minister and a prominent field general. She was the niece of Prince Albert, who married Queen Victoria of England, according to a Spokesman story that appeared shortly after Bray died. Her family often visited their relatives at Buckingham Palace, where Bray liked to crawl on the queen’s lap and play with the locket containing a photo of her husband.

Bray also narrowly escaped being poisoned during a visit to Czar Nicholas of Russia when she turned down poisoned mushrooms made by a cook looking to bring down the czar and his family.

Bray was not permitted to do anything for herself or associate with commoners growing up. She liked to spend her time riding horseback, playing tennis, attending operas and concerts and traveling all over Europe. She had a marriage arranged with Count Erick von Ludendorff, who went on to become a prominent German general during World War I.

But she gave it all up to marry Alfred Munz, a Minnesota hardware store owner she met at a ball. At 18, she signed away her rights to the family estate and wealth and moved to the United States, telling the Spokesman her great desire was for “the freedom that only America can give.”

They lived in Princeton, Minnesota, for eight years before moving to Redmond. It took Bray a while to give up her extravagant clothing, walking to her husband’s store wearing a velvet French gown, complete with a flowing train.

They moved to Redmond in 1912 when Munz bought a hardware store, but she told only a couple close friends of her past life. Her husband feared it could be bad for business.

One of Bray’s sisters married the ruler of Liechtenstein, while another married Count Kurt von Schwerin, the head of Germany’s underseas fleet in World War I. The couple bitterly opposed Hitler and were sent to a concentration camp during World War II, before escaping to Switzerland.

Other siblings went on to marry members of prominent European families. Bray, who last visited Germany in 1925, noted how it showed how many intermarriages there are in the various houses of Europe.

“All the same people,” she remarked a bit sadly, “and still they fight, when they should be living in peace.”

Trudy (short for Gertrude, a name Bray chose for herself) married Gus Bray in 1945, five years after Munz died. They lived quietly for the last 21 years of her life at their home at 404 W. Forest Ave. in Redmond. The house was built in 1910, according to the Deschutes Assessor’s Office. At one time, it was filled with items Trudy brought with her to America, including a rosewood grand piano and a dress worn by Queen Victoria.

Trudy and Gus, who died in 1976, were buried at Redmond Memorial Cemetery.

Trudy Bray agreed to tell the Spokesman’s Mary Brown her story, but the family requested it be held from publication until after her death.

“Not every city in the United States has had a princess live there — a princess no one knew about,” historical society volunteer Darla Fultz said on a recent tour of the Bray home. “She wanted it that way.”

Now, all that remains in the house are some posters about Hello Kitty and a British band called Asking Alexandria, left by a previous owner, along with graffiti on some of the walls. Its windows are boarded up and the original living room fireplace has a faux-brick veneer covering it.

But historical society members envision the house restored. They would love to see it as the new location for the Redmond Museum.

The historical society is seeking donations for the project, though members are hopeful the city’s urban-renewal agency will help pay to move the building.

Robertson looked at restoring the house and keeping it on site but said it didn’t fit into his plans for the location. He wants to build a park for food trucks, along with a barn-like shelter with sliding glass doors that can be opened when the weather is nice. The shelter would include a bar, along with seating and restrooms for food truck customers.

Robertson would also like to see a Saturday market at the site.

“We’re going to landscape it, and we’re going to put bocce ball and cornhole in, and it will be a nice gathering place,” he said.

Robertson estimates moving and renovating the aging building to cost between $70,000 and $80,000, though the historical society hopes the number could come down if workers donate their time for it.

While Robertson would like to get his project going soon, finding a home for the museum could be even more urgent.

“Since the city got the developer for the old (New Redmond) hotel, I suspect a developer for the old City Hall is not far behind,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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