Life Upstairs

Stories from Brubacher House's live-in hosts


As museum tour guides, Brubacher House hosts have enjoyed sharing stories of the museum’s intriguing collection with thousands of curious visitors over the years. Here are some highlights of the tour, from the perspectives of those who know it best!


Open Hearth

Dry Sink

Kitchen Table

Baby's Sippy Cup

Bonnet Iron

Medicine Bottle

Brandon: “I like the large open fireplaces and the cooking techniques associated with them.”

“The main kitchen area, with large hearth, dry sink, bell. The story of Magdalena Brubacher having emergency surgery on the kitchen table (and later dying of complications) also made for a dramatic reference.”

Josh: “The kitchen, and in particular, the dry sink. I find that everyone has an idea of what a kitchen is and people are always able to find something relatable in that room. The dry sink then reminds them of how different life would have been without everyday conveniences like running water, and gets guests really thinking about the stories of everyday life and how it would have been both different and similar to life today.”

“The kitchen - it was easiest to compare 'then and now' in a space with such obvious differences in tools and appliances.”


Edwardsburg Crown Brand Corn Syrup tin

Honey Jar - from Oscar Trussler's Apiary, Kitchener


Wooden Funnel

Flour Box

Drying Rack

Laura: “I always enjoy taking people through the pantry. I find that the various tools spark people’s memories or imaginations, and rather than sharing a scripted narrative, I’m able to ask questions and get people more engaged. I also find that people from all different cultural backgrounds are able to find something that they relate to. Everyone loves food!”

Karl: “The meat grinder in the pantry, specifically because of a hilarious/maybe a bit gruesome story a friend’s grandma told us when she saw it. (we’ll spare you the details!)”


Rocking Crib

Dresser and Angled Mirror


“We can’t decide. Some highlights were: The mini iron, the baby sippy cup made of lead, the angled mirror (to promote modesty), the dresser with dove tail drawers, the dry sink, the practicality of the hooks all around the main floor. It was always fun to be able to surprise someone walking by on the road by ringing the bell!”

Jacquie: “The hooks on the walls; I always ended the tour by telling guests the hooks, while practical, were also a sign of welcoming and there was always space for them to ‘hang their hat’ and stop by again.”


Hand-painted chairs

The Grandfather Clock

Hooks on each wall. "A place for everyone to hang their hat."

Woven rugs.

“I think the grandfather clock was the favourite. I believe it was the oldest one and its migration story was really interesting.”

Bethany: “I love the parlour with its “wall-to-wall carpeting”. It also contains the grandfather clock as well as books and photos. The lead sippy cup and mini iron were also some intriguing items.”

Brandon and Bethany Leis

Bethany Leis had recently completed her Mennonite Studies minor at Conrad Grebel University College and the host position was a great connector between her schooling and life. The setting and location along with an exchange of free rent for hosting duties seemed like a wonderful way to live in the city, save money, work and continue education in a master’s program when newly married.

Arlyn and Judith Friesen Epp

Arlyn and Judith Friesen Epp were moving to Waterloo to complete their university studies and were looking for affordable student housing and employment opportunities. A contact of theirs linked them to Brubacher House. Judith was drawn to the beauty of the space and the chance to be rooted in some of Waterloo County’s history and geography. Arlyn was enrolled to finish his BA in History (specializing in Mennonite history) and one of his favourite summer employment gigs was conducting tours of his hometown. They had just finished a pastoral assignment and were glad to continue working together as a couple.

Joshua and Laura Enns

Joshua and Laura are the current live-in hosts at Brubacher House. 

This article, published shortly after they moved in, details some of Laura and Joshua’s reasons for wanting to become Brubacher House hosts.

They had spent the previous year-and-a-half living and travelling in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. Visiting so many museums and historic sites really renewed their interest in history–particularly their own Mennonite family histories. And volunteering with Christian Intentional Communities, like the Iona Community in Scotland, opened their eyes to the ways in which heritage buildings could offer a sense of place, vitality, meaning, and rootedness to faith groups, community arts, and social justice movements. As a recent MA Community Music graduate, Laura was dreaming about historic buildings in Waterloo where she could organize community programming around the arts, faith, ecology, and history. She was familiar with Brubacher House because of her experiences volunteering there as a youth on Canada Day, while Brandon and Bethany Leis were hosts. Brubacher House seemed like a hidden gem with lots of potential. Amazingly, around the same time that they started talking about this vision, the host position became available, and they applied! They interviewed from a youth hostel in Athens, and ended their trip early in order to start their term as hosts.

Colin and Jennie Wiebe

Colin and Jennie Wiebe were asked by Paul Penner, Chair of the Brubacher House Committee, to take on the role of hosts. At that time, the North Campus around Brubacher House had a 9-hole golf course and fields. Moving there was like living in the country again, which is where Colin and Jennie both grew up. It also fit well with Jennie’s summer job as an agricultural interpreter at Doon Heritage Village. It was too good an opportunity to pass up!

Karl and Jacquie Reimer
The Brubacher House host position became available about eight months after Jacquie and Karl finished their undergrads. Jacquie was still job searching, and after completing (most of) a history undergrad it seemed like an exciting opportunity. They knew very little about Brubacher House before their interview. During their undergraduate degrees, while living on campus at UW, they had no idea the house was even owned or operated by UW. In the end, the opportunity to be storytellers and welcome so many different people to the house, plus the amazing living space and location were the things that made them say “yes!”
Chris Steingart and Jillian Burkhardt

As life-long residents of Waterloo Region, Chris (a history major) and Jillian (a religious studies major) were drawn to the unique and historically significant opportunity that Brubacher House offered. They loved the huge back porch and the deep window sills. Of course, being newly married, it didn’t hurt that the rent was free!

Mark and Allison Brubacher

Allison and Mark met working in costume at a history museum. They both finished their history degrees while they dated each other. It felt like a natural fit.