The Brubacher House

Brubacher House

In 1840, A-76 John Brubacher (1793-1875), grandson of A-2 John Brubacher (1719-1804) purchased Lot 25 of the German Company Tract in Waterloo County, Ontario for his second son, A-236 John Brubacher (1822-1902). The lot consisted of 256 acres of virgin forest. Son John cleared a few acres of trees in order to build a small frame home and a barn prior to his marriage. In 1846, he married Magdalena Musselman and together they built a field stone house in 1850. The house was built in the typical Pennsylvania German architectural style of the time and the Brubachers raised their 14 children there. Farming continued on the land through subsequent Brubacher generations and other owners until 1965 when the property was purchased as part of the University of Waterloo.

When the university purchased the 1,000 acres of farmland that is the current campus, there were ten farmhouses situated on the land. It was proposed to the university that one of the farmhouses remain as a marker of the Mennonite farmland that had once inhabited the campus because it would have been a “great loss of historical identity” if not a single trace of the Mennonite homesteads would remain.

Unfortunately before restoration of the home could take place, it was gutted by fire, just months before work was to begin on renovations. However, plans for restoration continued with involvement and planning by the University of Waterloo and the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, Conrad Grebel University College and the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation. Under the direction of Simeon Martin, a master Mennonite craftsman, and with the assistance of many Mennonite farmers, the house interior was rebuilt to reflect a Pennsylvania German Mennonite home of the 1850-90 period. Enough beams for the entire house and interior framing were hewed by hand from donated wood.

John E. Brubacher tea set

John Brubacher family tea set.
Photo credit: Kristen Bergen

The Brubacher House building and surrounding property is currently owned by the University of Waterloo. The Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario was asked to take over the responsibility of furnishing the main floor of the Brubacher house after renovation. The furnishings are an authentic reflection of the time period, most of which were donated by Mennonite families in the Waterloo region and the pieces are authentic. Several items original to the Brubacher House were also donated, such as a corner cupboard and two tea sets.

In 1975, the City of Waterloo designated the Farmhouse as having “historic value and interest.” The Brubacher House opened to the public as a museum on June 28, 1979.

The Brubacher House has become a natural learning center and tours are available during the summer months. A conference room is part of the main floor of the house to accommodate larger groups.

Today the beautifully preserved home has become a landmark overlooking Columbia Lake and the University of Waterloo North Campus playing fields. The strong simple architectural lines of a past era contrast the modern lines of buildings on campus.

The Brubacher House is situated on the campus of the University of Waterloo. Tour hours are 2 to 5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, May 1st through October 31st.

Tours are also available by appointment at other times throughout the year.  Admission is by donation.

For more information, contact:

Brubacher House
c/o University of Waterloo, North Campus
Waterloo, ON
N2L 3G6
(519) 886-3855

Or visit these websites:

John E. Brubacher House

The Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario – Brubacher House

Conrad Grebel University College’s Brubacher House website

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