Description of Historic Place
The Swift Current Mennonite Heritage Village is a Municipal Heritage Property located in the City of Swift Current. The site is comprised of five, early twentieth-century, wood-frame structures which have been moved to the property to recreate part of a traditional Saskatchewan Mennonite village. The site includes a house-barn, church, chicken coop, privy, and windmill.
The Swift Current Mennonite Heritage Village is of heritage value as a reminder of the major settlement contribution of the Mennonite people who became an important part of the area’s history. Arriving from Manitoba in 1904-05 to a settlement area south-east of Swift Current, the German-speaking Mennonite people were religious refugees who had originally fled the Netherlands in the mid-sixteenth century for Poland, then Russia and finally to Canada. The Swift Current settlement was one of two major settlements established in Saskatchewan and contained many Mennonite villages, each with numerous yard complexes. In the 1920s, due to the introduction of modern farming techniques, the public school system and municipal governments, village life was weakened with much of the population abandoning the village culture or moving to Mexico.
The heritage value of the property also lies in the grouping of the buildings and plan of the site. Due to the extinction of the village culture in the province, with no villages remaining, and only a few scattered buildings in existence, this collection of structures is a rarity. The buildings grouped for the collection date from between 1911 and 1915, and were obtained from communities in the surrounding area. Comprising the recreated village is the 1911 Julius Wiebe House from Rhineland; the 1915 John Froese Barn from Blumenhof; the 1914 Sommerfeld Church from Gouldtown; a historic windmill from Hodgeville; a chicken coop; and a privy. Placement of the buildings is significant, reflecting a traditional layout that would have comprised part of a village. Additional features, such as historically appropriate and heirloom plantings complete the arrangement.
The heritage value of the property also resides in the vernacular architecture of the buildings on the site. The plain, wood-frame structures with unpainted drop-siding illustrates the desire for simplicity in living which was thought to foster a better spiritual understanding. Evidence of this belief is most obvious in the stark interior of the church, an unadorned space of painted tongue-and-groove cladding which presented no visual distraction from the sermon. Similarly, the interior of the house is characterized for its lack of embellishment with white, painted, plain tongue-and-groove wall cladding, exposed ceiling beams and a functional layout. Resulting from the hold-over European tradition of minimizing land use, the gabled roof house and barn are attached to create a long, linear unit, the barn being slightly larger than the house in size. Wooden shutters, simple window hoods and gables differentiated by vertical siding characterize the architecture of the house.
City of Swift Current Bylaw No. 6 – 2005.
The heritage value of the Swift Current Mennonite Heritage Village resides in the following character-defining elements:
-those elements that reflect the property’s arrangement of buildings to resemble part of a village comprising a church and one yard-site; the collection and grouping of a housebarn, church, chicken coop, privy, windmill, and historically appropriate plantings;
-those elements that reflect the property’s original architectural features of the church, including a regular, rectangular plan with smaller, front porch; a cedar shingled, front-gabled roof; wood-frame construction with unpainted, drop-siding; double-hung, wooden sash, 2-over-2 windows; tongue-and-groove clad interior; confessionals; side door;
-those elements that reflect the property’s original architectural features of the housebarn, including its long, linear, unit plan of a regular, rectangular, 1 ½-storey house and slightly larger rectangular barn with shed roof, side extensions; smaller, gable roof hyphen connecting the two structures; wood-frame construction with unpainted horizontal drop-siding (vertical within the gables); house with double-hung, 2-over-2, wooden sash windows, shutters, and window hoods; barn with square, four-pane windows and geometric door construction designs; interior configuration of the barn retaining stables and hay loft; functional interior configuration of the house with spacious rooms centred around a brick stove/oven; tongue-and-groove wall cladding and exposed ceiling beams with distinct, chamfered corners;
-those elements that reflect the property’s original architectural features of the outbuildings, such as wood-frame construction with unpainted drop siding and gable roofs; nesting boxes and roosting rack in the chicken coop.