A Mennonite Treasure Restored: The Waldheim House at the Mennonite Heritage Village

My mom’s been telling me for years that I’m related to the guy who built this house: Julius Dyck. I probably should’ve mentioned this to Curator Andrea Dyck when we went to see this house… but I felt shy about my efforts to connect to the history on display at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach. And anyway, we were there to see the restored Waldheim House! I repressed my nerdish interest in genealogy. This wasn’t hard to do, because I was distracted and dazzled by the change — the house looks entirely new!

Do you remember what it looked like before? Here, with this link you’ll see “before” photos and hear Andrea talk about it in her excellent and knowledgeable way!

I’ve long been a little concerned about the Waldheim House because, well, it didn’t seem to be holding up that well, especially given the spotty thatching on the roof. I entirely missed seeing the house during it’s update, so visiting it now when all the work was long completed was amazing. It honestly doesn’t even look like the same structure!

Looking a little closer.

Looking up… the fresh new thatching is kind of mesmerizing!

It’s way different inside now too! You can look up through the ceiling to see the underside of the thatching!

Up in the attic, we saw things a little closer. The effect is simultaneously cozy and clean.

Looking down to the main floor from the attic:

Okay. So. I’d put off looking up whether I really was related to the builder of this house. I mean, my mom doesn’t really have a reason to lie, but I was worried that she might be mistaken… though she really never is about this kind of thing. I should’ve trusted her.

Finally, just now, I consulted good ol’ Grandma’s Window… and discovered that yes, Julius, the builder of this house, was/is my great-great-great-uncle (or, as GW puts it, “siblings 4 times removed”). Julius had one sibling, his sister Aganetha Dyck, who lived with Julius and Katherine in this house until Aganetha married Abram Unrau (Katherine’s brother). Aganetha is (was?) my great-great-grandmother. I’ve written about her before: she died seven months after she gave birth to her ninth child: my great-grandmother Maria Unrau.

I’d never put the pieces together before, when I stood in the Waldheim House, when I saw the newly pristine attic, that my great-great-grandmother Aganetha had lived in this very house with her brother and sister-in-law before she got married (and then lived next door).

Interestingly, in my research just now, I came across a Dyck Family Genealogy page, created by the descendants of Julius, and on the page, they’ve made a fantastic effort to trace the family trees. The tree is very long, its branches extending until they peter out at the end… concluding with my great-grandmother, the youngest. Must have lost contact at this point.

And here I am, looking up at this freshly restored piece of history… realizing my very faint, but very real connection to the Waldheim House. At a time when most everything else has fallen into disrepair and been torn down, I feel grateful for this restoration.