The apartment tour
Changing through the years.
Changing through the years.
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.
Ida Habermehl and Dorothy Bean began their retirement as the first “live-in custodian-hostesses” of Brubacher House. In a letter from Brubacher House committee member Lorna Bergey, these two women were asked whether they were planning to retire immediately into rocking chairs with their knitting or could they be interested in becoming involved with an interesting project for the next few years?
In a letter to Nelson Scheifele, Dorothy and Ida stated: “We have an active interest in our roots and in the preservation of Mennonite history. Our memories go back to grandparents who lived in the 19th century, building homes, rearing families in that century and giving us a ‘goodly heritage’….To be involved in meeting individuals who are interested in this era and interpreting this life to tourists is exciting and a real challenge for us.”
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 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.
Howard and Carol Gimbel were approached by the Brubacher House Committee to consider hosting at Brubacher House. The Gimbels were interested in the idea and thought that Brubacher House fit in with their desire to do voluntary service. Howard was adventuresome and liked people and was more involved in providing the tours. The couple completed two terms at Brubacher House while renting out their home on Bridge Street.
The photo above shows Howard and Carol Gimbel at the Brubacher House display for Heritage Week 1991, at Conestoga Mall.
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.
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!