Look at those beautiful floors! When I toured the Friesen heritage house in the southern Manitoba village of Neubergthal with friends I took the photo below of one of the floors in the home. It intrigued me.
I saw that same pattern when I visited the gift shop at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It was displaying Neubergthal artist Margruite Krahn’s show Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns. Margruite has been involved in the restoration of Neubergthal since 2001. Neubergthal is a Mennonite street village founded in 1876 and a national historic site. Margruite became fascinated with the beautiful patterns found hand-painted on the wooden floors of some of the oldest homes in the village.
Upstairs Bedroom by Margruite Krahn
These hand-painted floor patterns were created by Mennonite women often during the long winter months. Floor painting is an art Margruite believes they brought over with them from Prussia when they migrated to Canada in the 1870s. Margruite decided to try to recreate some of the designs herself on cotton canvas. The results are beautiful but also completely practical. Although at the WAG gift shop the floor cloths are hung on the wall they are extremely durable and can be placed on the floor and used in a functional way.
Canvas carpet created in 2005
Margruite says some of her canvas floor clothes were made already in 2005 and still look great after more than a decade of foot traffic. Not all of Margruite’s canvases were inspired by floor patterns. This one was found on a trap door in the Klippenstein home in Neubergthal.
Margruite travelled to other Mennonite villages as well looking for painted floorboards and found them sometimes under layers of carpet and linoleum. This pattern was discovered in a house in Grunthal Manitoba owned by a Driedger family. I wonder if they could be relatives of mine? Margruite says that while the petals on the flowers in floral patterns were usually painted with a brush the centre circle was stamped using potatoes or some other vegetable.
Margruite based this artwork on a geometric floor pattern she found in a Gerbrandt house in Sommerfeld Manitoba. She has discovered some 26 different patterns so far.
777 Boxes of Grace by Margruite Krahn from the Herdsman House in Neubergthal
You can find out more about Margruite on her website and read more about her work with floor patterns there too.
The T-4s Go Mennonite in Neubergthal
The Brommtop and Cross Dressing Mennonites
On Friday my three friends and I who call ourselves the T-4s, set off on another one of our adventures. This time we headed for the tiny Mennonite village of Neubergthal, Manitoba which was named a National Historic Site in 1989. We started with a drive down the streets of the village lined with cottonwood trees planted by the original Mennonite settlers in 1876. They brought the seeds with them from Ukraine when they emigrated.
First we toured the Friesen House with our very knowledgeable guide Paige. She showed us the beautiful way Mennonite women used to handpaint the floors in their homesIn the pantry we saw the pie shelf, a handy way for the Mennonite housewife to cool a whole oven full of fruit pies at one time. We looked at the honeymoon suite. It got its name because at one point two of the children in the family that owned the house got married in the same year and couldn’t afford farms of their own yet. So both couples stayed in this room together for a year before they set up their own farms. The sides of the narrow wooden beds did pull out to make them a little wider. After trying on some traditional Mennonite garb we headed to the barn which is attached to the house. This meant farmers didn’t have to go outside in cold or blizzardy weather to tend to cattle. The barn also offered a sheltered place for doing laundry and……….
there was a traditional outhouse in the barn, also handy for winter use. The heat of the animals’ bodies in the barn kept you warm and there was no need to go outdoors to the bathroom. Newspaper was supplied for toilet paper and there was a toilet for children too. Then we were off to the Hamm house across the street. Marilyn and Ray Hamm still make their home in the traditional Neubergthal house barn Ray’s grandparents once lived in. The Hamms were excited to meet my friend Esther who used to work at MCC with Ray many years ago and was a frequent guest in the Hamm home.
Ray and Marilyn told us about the history of their house and Marilyn even showed us how the old pump organ in the livingroom worked.
Later we had lunch at the Jasmine Tea Room in Altona a perfect place to talk about our adventure over homemade soups, fresh salads and warm biscuits with jam.
Paige will still be giving tours in Neubergthal for the next couple weeks so check out their website if you are interested in learning more about Mennonite history in a ‘hands on’ interesting way.
Introducing Friends from India to Mennonites
Should the T-4s Get Tattoos
Mennonites in Gone Girl
Filed under History, T-4s