The Last Housebarn

As Andrew and I have visited the West Reserve more and more over the past few years, the we’ve been struck by the startling differences in terms of preserved heritage. I mean, I feel like the West Reserve was always at a bit of an advantage because first of all, it’s twice as big (two Rural Municipalities: Stanley and Rhineland — as opposed to the East Reserve becoming just one R.M.: Hanover). And secondly, it was wealthier. That must have been some sort of help.

Anyway! So when Andrew and I started driving around the West Reserve, blinding trying find as many villages as possible just to check them out, we were astounded to find housebarns in nearly every village we visited. In fact, I don’t think we encountered any WR villages that didn’t have at least some sort of housebarn. Such a village probably exists, but we haven’t stumbled across it yet.

Meanwhile, here in the East Reserve, there only housebarns you’ll find are at the Mennonite Heritage Village. And that goodness for the MHV!

But there are no housebarns in the “wild” here in Hanover. Unless… this is one:

We took this pic from the car last year, and it’s haunted us ever since.

Look at the way those beams jut out… as if part of the building has already been torn away.

What it really was a housebarn? And what if it really has come down? The last one.

Honestly though, we thought the last housebarn had been torn down many years ago… which was the catalyst for the beginning of the MHV.

Marlene Reimer remembers the day that Steinbach’s last housebarn came down, and she has recreated the memory in her children’s book Goodbye, Old Housebarn:

Inside the cover, she has included a picture of the last housebarn:

Marlene has lovingly recreated her childhood memories in these books… here she is depicted as a child, watching as the housebarn is torn down, which elicits a stab of regret:

I realize the idea of maintaining a tonne of old buildings is a tricky one.

I’m grateful there are still some housebarns to visit, at the MHV and in Neubergthal.