Dark Academia Vibes at Dalnavert

A pandemic winter makes for a good time to dive into the Dark Academia aesthetic… which I kind of stumbled into by accident on Instagram because I guess the algorithms figured out that I like books, old stuff, historic stuff, and Lucy Maud Montgomery so it honestly didn’t take much of a leap. And I can’t help but notice that Winnipeg’s Dalnavert Museum has a real lock on the Dark Academia look. But what does this have to do with Manitoba Mennonites?

Let’s find out.

We visited the Dalnavert in December 2019. Yep, before the pandemic.

Designed by architect Charles H. Wheeler, this house was built in 1895 for Sir Hugh John Macdonald. Perhaps this name sounds familiar; his dad was Canada’s first Prime Minister.

As we explored the house (led by a wonderful guide) we couldn’t help but contrast the extravagant lifestyle of Winnipeg’s 1890s elite with what we know of how Mennonite settlers were living at the very same time, just a few miles away. I suppose the sod-hut phase was over by then but East Reserve Mennonites were struggling with poor growing conditions and their street villages were already being abandoned, as many made a move to begin again on the West Reserve.

Meanwhile, at Sir Hugh’s house… they could press a button to indicate which room a maid should report to.

The Dalnavert was named for the birthplace of Sir Hugh John’s maternal grandmother in Scotland.

In 1970, this magnificent historic house as slated for demolition, but was saved by the Manitoba Historical Society. I appreciate their efforts so very much. This is a phenomenal example of what can be done to save historic buildings and move forward beautifully.

Each room is total complete lush eye-candy, decorated carefully for each season, in great detail.

Just so you know, I’ve heard Halloween is a fantastic time to visit the Dalnavert.

Whenever we explore historic places and spaces, we try to take mirror selfies. At the Dalnavert, I felt like the visage staring back at us from out of the mirror was rather ghostlike.

You may not sit down in many places, as it’ll damage the chairs… but this window seat at the top of the stairs offers a brief reprieve from standing.

Then, this past summer we visited the Dalnavert again with our eldest niece. I think she’s rather captured by the aesthetic too.

We’re already looking forward to revisiting this site again this year!