Life Upstairs

Stories from Brubacher House's live-in hosts


Significant milestones and special occasions at Brubacher House

While Brubacher House artifacts remained in the 1850s, life in the upstairs apartment carried on.  Many birthdays and special occasions have been and continue to be celebrated by the custodians and hosts of Brubacher House.



March 4, 1980 – Nancy and Ted’s wedding “reception” with family.

July 10, 2004 – Chris Steingart and Jillian Burkhardt had their wedding photos taken at Brubacher House.

“Having the Brubacher house as the backdrop for our wedding photographs was a unique opportunity. While there were always several wedding parties to show up on a summer weekend to take pictures around the property, we felt special that we had the ability to take some unique indoor shots in the museum as well!”


There were four babies born while their parents lived at the Brubacher House.

Dec. 1, 2019 – Oran Isaac Enns was born at Brubacher House, in a home birth attended by St. Jacobs Midwives.

June 2003 – Naomi Wiebe was born while Colin and Jennie were hosts at the Brubacher House.

July 19, 1996 – Allegra Friesen Epp was born.

June 6, 1999 – Bryn Friesen Epp was born.

“It was special that two of our children were born in the house with midwives - continuing the practice of home-births so commonplace at the time of the Brubachers. It felt like we had a kinship with them :).”

“On a personal note, we received permission from BH and U of W to plant two trees after the birth of our first two children born in BH. We planted a gingko for our first-born and a Japanese Ivory Silk for our second. The gingko is right beside the BH sign, and the Ivory Silk is near it.”

“Our son was born 5 months after we left so his beginnings were while we were there.”


June 2001 – Showing off the newest addition to the family ring collection: Colin’s iron ring (UWaterloo Engineering graduation).

October 2003 – Colin graduated with his Masters of Applied Science.

June 2008 – Bethany graduated with a Masters in Library and Information Science

Wedding Anniversaries

Paul and Edna Hunsberger as well as Howard and Carol Gimbel celebrated their 40th wedding anniversaries while they were hosts.

There were many 5th wedding anniversaries celebrated:

  • Arlyn and Judith Friesen Epp (1994-2000)

  • Bethany and Brandon Leis (2006-2009)

  • Allison and Mark Brubacher (2009-2013)

  • Laura and Joshua Enns (2017-present)

Other Milestones

Ida Habermehl and Dorothy Bean obtained their Canadian citizenship:

Jan. 31, 1986 – Ida became a Canadian citizen in Waterloo.

Feb. 28, 1986 – [Dorothy] To immigration and became Canadian citizen. Received pin and card.

Nancy and Ted Maitland

Nancy Saunders lived at Brubacher House as the first staff person on site. Her initial role was as live-in custodian and consultant/curator of the Mennonite Farmhouse. Nancy lived there before the museum was established in 1979. With a low-operating budget for this museum project, Conrad Grebel College altered her role to custodian responsibilities, in exchange for free rent at Brubacher House. The tours were conducted primarily by Lorna Bergey as well as other volunteers from the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario. In 1980, Nancy married and lived with her husband Ted Maitland in the apartment until 1982.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.