Doon Heritage Village renovation will strengthen historic infrastructure for generations to come.
Water mains, electricity lines, and telephone/fibre cables will be replaced throughout Doon Heritage Village. The utility replacement project will impact operations in 2023 and 2024. During the construction project, the historic buildings will be closed to the public. The site is scheduled to reopen in 2025.

Explore Doon Heritage Village

Railway Station

Outside markets were easily accessible to much of rural Waterloo County in 1914. The Grand Trunk and Canadian Pacific railway systems connected small rural communities with the larger urban centres in the county and with destinations farther away such as Chicago, Toronto and Montreal. Train stations would have featured the latest in technology, including telegraph service (often called the "Victorian Internet"), electricity,  telephones, typewriters, and, of course, steam technology.

The Railway Station was originally located in Petersburg, Waterloo County. Constructed in 1856. Original owner, the Grand Trunk Railway. Gift of Canadian National Railway, 1968.

Train Engine 894. Original owner, Canadian Pacific Railway. Constructed in 

1911. Gift of the City of Kitchener, 1964.

train 894

Martin House

Martin HouseMennonites from Pennsylvania were among the first European settlers to come to Waterloo County, and they helped to make this area one of the most productive agricultural regions in Canada.

Old Order Mennonites wanted to stop the growing influence of the outside world on their daily lives.  Consequently, the Old Order Mennonites chose to hold fast to their religion and traditional rural ways.  The plain, unadorned interior of this house reflects their simple, unworldly approach to living.

Peter Martin House: Originally located in Waterloo Township, Waterloo County. Constructed around 1820. Original owner, Peter Martin. Gift of the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation, 1974.

Shantz Barn

Shantz barnThe Shantz Barn, originally built in 1810, features a large drive floor and a mow, which would be used to store hay and straw. The rack-lifter (the circular disks mounted on the inside of the south wall) made it possible to lift the loaded hay rack high up into the air, allowing the farmer to pile the hay or straw into very tall mounds.

Shuh Barn

Shuh BarnThe Shuh Barn, like all bank barns, features an easily accessible upper level that was used to store feed, bedding and machinery and a lower level, which housed the livestock.

Wagon Drive Shed Built by Simeon Martin, 1969. Barns Originally located on the "Old Shuh Farm", Kitchener, Waterloo County. Gift of the County of Waterloo, 1957.


weaveryWaterloo County has a heritage steeped in the weaving tradition. By 1914 large scale industry had taken over most of the textile production though there were still a few independent weavers making a modest living using recycled household textiles to make rugs.

Originally located at the Thomson Family farm in Waterloo County. Constructed around 1845. Original owner, Jacob Z. Detweiler. Gift of the Swedenborgian Church in 1973.

Dry Goods and Grocery Store

The store was the focus for commercial and social activity in the community. With increased competition from larger urban centres and mail order catalogues, the store owner's greatest advantage was the fact that he offered credit; Eaton's and other mail order stores required cash payment only. The store keeper also installed modern conveniences, such as an ice box, electricity, a gas pump, and telephone in an attempt to better serve his customers.

Originally located in Delaware, Middlesex County. Constructed around 1830. Gift of A.R. Goudie, 1957.

Jubilee Park

Jubille ParkPublic parks with flower beds, natural vistas, gates and archways, gazebos and grandstands became commonplace at the turn of the last century. Named in honour of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887 and her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Recreated in 2009. Gift of the Friends of Waterloo Region Museum in honour of the village's 50thanniversary.

Harness Shop

The harness maker focused on making, selling, and repairing horse harnesses and other horse-related goods. They would also make money repairing other leather goods such as shoes, skates, and luggage.

Reproduced in 2016.

Tailor Shop and Post Office

Taylor Shop and Post OfficeThe tailor of 1914 offered both ready-made and custom-made clothing for men. In addition to tailoring, mending, cleaning and pressing, he also sold bow-ties, collars, hats and underwear.

The main way of communicating in 1914 was by letter. It was possible to stay in touch for one cent for postcards and for two cents for letters. Rural mail delivery was available, but village residents had to collect their mail at the Post Office each day.

Originally located at Wellesley, Waterloo County. Constructed around 1870. Original owner, George Bellinger. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mattiussi, 1969.


sawmillThis sawmill would have been powered by a steam engine. However, with the number of local trees large enough to be used for lumber declining by 1914, sawmills like this one were under-used.

Originally located on the Bartholomew Property, Strasburg, Waterloo County. Gift of the Pannill Veneer Co., 1967.

Blacksmith Shop

Blacksmithing was a vital rural trade in the life of a small community and survived well into the 20th century. The blacksmith did general farrier work like shoeing horses, as well as repair work on ploughs, wheels and even automobiles. Often the seasonal work taking place in the fields and the needs of the farmer dictated the type of work in which the blacksmith was engaged.

Reproduced in 2004, after the Valentine Gies Blacksmith Shop, built around 1894 and originally located in Conestogo, Waterloo County.

McArthur House

McArthur HouseBy 1914, Peter McArthur was a popular author with a nation-wide audience thanks to his columns featured in the Toronto Globe and the Farmer's Advocate. His house, which is quite rustic for a 1914 home, reflects his romantic vision of rural life and his attachment to Canada's pioneer past.

Originally located in Ekfrid Township, Middlesex County. Constructed around 1835. Original owner, the McArthur Family. Gift of Donald Sinclair, 1962.

Meat Market

Meat MarketMeat markets with meat curing and processing areas were common in small  towns and villages. With a meat market of this size, the butcher would slaughter the animals on the farm, and bring the beef, pork, and poultry back to the shop, where he would prepare different cuts of meat and sausage for the local community.

Reproduced in 1965 with assistance of J.M. Schneider Ltd. Restored in 2010.

Repair Shop

Repair ShopBy the early 1900s, wagons made by large manufacturers and those sold through catalogues forced many rural tradesmen to alter the kinds of services they offered. The woodworker in this shop would have repaired the wooden parts of wagons, buggies, wheels and farm machinery, while the blacksmith would have done the metal work.

Originally located on the "Old Shuh Farm", Kitchener, Waterloo County. Gift of County of Waterloo, 1957.

Seibert House

Siebert HouseNot everyone living in a small village would have farmed for a living, and the Seibert House reflects how a reasonably successful tradesman or small business owner's family might have lived. Since their money wasn't tied up with the workings of a farm, this family could afford to buy some modern conveniences, such as a phonograph, a telephone, and other mass-produced goods. 

Originally located in Kitchener, Waterloo County. Constructed around 1850. Last owner, the Seibert Family. Gift of City of Kitchener, 1964.

Sararas-Bricker Farm

Sararas HouseLarge mixed-use farms were typical in 1914 Waterloo County. On a mixed farm, the farmer would grow a variety of cash crops, as well as raise various types of livestock, such as dairy or beef cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and geese.

Sararas House originally located in Wilmot Township, Waterloo County. Constructed around 1840. Original owner, Nicholas Sararas. Gift of the Pennsylvania-German Folklore Society, 1970.

Bricker Barn

bricker barnThe Bricker Barn is a good example of an overshot bank barn. The structure is built into the side of a hill, and features a ramp allowing easy access to the upper level of the barn. The overshot, or overhanging feature, provides shelter for livestock and equipment storage.

Bricker Barn originally located in Waterloo Township, Waterloo County. Constructed around 1845. Original owner, Abraham and Mary Thoman. Gift of John Steckley, 1976.

Freeport Church

freeport churchThe church was the focal point for spiritual concerns and much of the community's social life. The ministry served as a moral guidepost for the community, encouraging the congregation to take notice of the evils of the world and to join the fight to reform society.

Originally located at Freeport, Waterloo County. Constructed in 1861. Original owner, the United Brethren Church. Gift of the United Church of Canada, 1962. Limerick Cemetery relocated from Waterloo Township, Waterloo County, 1966.

Fire Hall

firehallFire was one of the great fears in rural society. If a barn or home caught fire, years of work and savings could disappear in a matter of hours. Members of the community joined together to form volunteer fire brigades to help combat fires. The fear of fire would eventually lead to the formation of mutual fire assurance companies to offer insurance against loss due to fire.

Reproduced in 1974. Gift of Economical Mutual Insurance Co.

Doon Heritage Village Case Study

The Village is featured as a case study of how museum interpretation has developed and changed over the past 50 years.

Mary Tivy completed her PhD dissertation -
The Local History Museum In Ontario: An Intellectual History, 1851-1985 - at the University of Waterloo in 2006.

Additional Village Information

Doon Heritage Village - Wikipedia


colour wallIn the 1950 book Ontario In Your Car, authors John and Marjorie Mackenzie noted that Kitchener with a population of 40,000 was one of Ontario's most progressive cities. Their description of Kitchener highlighted the substantial meals at the Walper Hotel, three golf courses, four movie theatres (open continuously from one o'clock every day, except Sunday), and the presence of an Eaton's department store on King Street. However, they were not able to suggest places of entertainment other than the movie theatres and golf courses because in 1950 the only museum in Waterloo County belonged to the Waterloo Historical Society, housed in the basement of the Kitchener Public Library.

It was timely then, that in 1952 local radiologist Dr. A.E. Broome, nicknamed "Dusty", travelled to Europe and happened upon the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem, Holland. Broome realized that in the booming post-war years, Ontario's rural landscape, farms and small towns were quickly disappearing to urban sprawl and that nowhere in Ontario was the province's rural history being preserved as he had seen at the European open-air museum.

Upon his return to Kitchener, Broome lobbied various organizations and levels of government for support for his idea to create the "Ontario Rural Life Centre", dedicated to the celebration of agriculture and industry. Broome received support from many local agencies and organizations, and small pledges of funds from some of the area municipalities.

He also visited Williamsburg, Virginia, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York to learn from their open air museum villages. At the time, there were no open air museums in Ontario, although Black Creek Pioneer Village and Upper Canada Village were both in the planning stages.

In their written request to the Honourable F.S. Thomas, Minister of Agriculture, the proponents of the museum noted that "Mr. John Root, M.L.A., North Wellington, in seconding the motion for adoption of the Speech from the Throne, suggested that the Government of Ontario should consider the construction of a Pioneer Memorial to take the form of an early nineteenth century crossroads and farm community. . . . It is known, however, that the Premier [Leslie Frost], and several of his Ministers, including yourself, have seriously and favourably considered Mr. Root's suggestion."

They also requested the "Government of Ontario proceed with the construction of an all-Ontario Pioneer Museum at an early date [in Waterloo County] . . . with appropriations from the departments of Agriculture, Education, Wildlife, and Planning and Development."

It is obvious from their written proposal that while there was substantial local support for the museum, it was hoped that the Province of Ontario would assume the greater portion of start-up and capital development costs. However this would not come to pass, and while the Province did commit funds to the museum project, it was only a small amount which in turn resulted ultimately in a narrowing of the museum's focus from all of Ontario to Waterloo County.

The first board of directors was a diverse group including representatives from Galt, Kitchener, Waterloo, Waterloo County, the Federated Women's Institute, the Ontario Library Association, the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society, the United Empire Loyalists, the Teachers' Federation, the Kitchener Horticultural Society, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Kitchener Chamber of Commerce and Junior Chamber of Commerce, Junior Farmers, the Ontario Educational Association, and the Waterloo and Ontario Historical Societies.

The organization was incorporated under the name 'The Ontario Pioneer Community Foundation' in 1956.

Doon Pioneer Village opened one year later on June 19, 1957 with the raising of a barn. The name Doon was chosen to reflect the nearby village, begun in 1834.

The Galt Evening Reporter noted on opening day that "Blunt, toil-calloused hands and pale fingers more used to pushing pens joined together in answering the call of 'yo ho, heave' at Doon yesterday as the old time custom of barn raising was relived. ... The foundation has elaborate plans for the development of the piece of land which will become one day a complete monument to the men and women who cleared the first paths for modern Canada."

On opening day, City of Galt Alderman Mel Moffat, later to become site administrator, summed up the reasons behind the creation of the village - "if [we] failed to grasp the opportunity to preserve the past now it would go forever."


colour wallDuring the 1960s, the layout of the village as we know it today began to take shape with many of the existing buildings being moved to or erected at the village. And Doon Pioneer Village's collection would get a boost at the start of the decade, with the donation of the Waterloo Historical Society museum collection begun in 1912.

A museum and administration building opened in 1960, built in part to exhibit the collection of the Waterloo Historical Society, but also to exhibit smaller artifacts which had been gathered by the Ontario Pioneer Community Foundation. The opening day ceremonies and ribbon cutting, attended by more than 300 people to view the 2,500 artifacts on exhibit, was called "an historic hour for Waterloo County" by one local newspaper.

At the time, the founder of the village Dr. Broome, noted the reasons why the specific location for the village were chosen: ". . . where the old stage coach lines forded the Grand, was the natural point of entry to the western portion of the province for prospective pioneering settlers. This site, at the beginning of the Huron road, appealed to those of us who were interested in the project, as the natural site for such a museum in Ontario. The road on which this property faces is the old Huron road leading to all settlements north and west of here."

The 1960s were also marked by growing pains. Each year, the village applied for and received funding from the area municipalities and the County. But as the decade progressed, it seemed that the funds were not sufficient each year to complete all of the tasks desired by the board.

At their annual meeting in 1961, Chairman Oliver Wright urged the Ontario Pioneer Community Foundation "against taking on too many projects in one year, and said some of the present financial difficulties arose from trying to do too much too fast. Although suitable buildings for the village were hard to pass up, the foundation would have to stick to a stricter budget and building program."

Wright's comments were echoed by village administrator Howard Groh in 1965. Among many suggestions, Groh called for an increase in staffing (he and his family were the only full-time staff at the time) and the establishment of an educational program to assist school children visiting the village. Groh also suggested that "any new buildings . . . should wait until those now set up are polished and brought to a higher standard."

As both Wright and Groh knew, there were significant plans for future development of the village but despite their pleas to delay the acquisition of more buildings, each year, additional buildings were identified for relocation. Many of these buildings never made it to the village due to budget constraints, or in some instances the buildings were destroyed before they could be moved. But through the 1960s many buildings were relocated to the village or were replicated to exhibit collections.

Many of the buildings came to Doon Pioneer Village because they were threatened by growth and road construction. In 1966, the Limerick Cemetery located near Highway 8 and Highway 401, stood in the way of development and ultimately, more than one hundred burials were disinterred and reburied next to the Freeport Church at the village.

Across Canada in 1967, the Centennial Year was celebrated in many different ways. In Montreal, Expo 67 hosted the world while in smaller towns and cities, local history projects were the focus of celebrations. At Doon Pioneer Village, there were two Centennial projects. Waterloo Township Council chose to build a replica of the original Waterloo Township Hall, built in 1860, and which had been torn down some years earlier. And a sawmill was constructed courtesy of Pannill Veneer from Kitchener.

The 1960s were also marked by the donation of many significant artifacts to the young museum. Included in the Waterloo Historical Society collection, was the Weber Conestoga wagon considered to be one of the best existing examples of a Conestoga wagon in North America.

Despite financial difficulties, the 1960s ended on a positive note when in 1969 the Archaeological Sites and Historic Sites Board of Ontario unveiled an historical marker near the entrance to the village, recognizing the role of the Huron Road in opening up southwestern Ontario. And in the same year, the village opened two buildings: the post office, moved from Wellesley and the Petersburg Train Station.


colour wallA parade kicked off the official opening of Doon Pioneer Village's 1970 season. "A large crowd attended . . . (to see) the return of Sam Bricker with $20,000 in silver coins . . . recalling the 1804 trip of the early settler, who raised the money in Pennsylvania to pay off a mortgage on Waterloo County lands. The Pioneer Village experiences its own share of financial headaches this year."

The Village's financial problem referred to in the media coverage of opening day was a result of an increase in municipal property taxes "putting the project's . . . annual budget near the breaking point."

But fortunately in 1971 the Grand River Conservation Authority stepped forward, at the request of the Ontario Pioneer Community Foundation, and assumed much of the operating costs, wages and administration of the village. The involvement of the Conservation Authority also allowed the village to escape the annual increase in property taxes and put the village on a stable financial footing for the first time since it opened in 1957. And as a result, the 1970s were a less turbulent time in the administration of the village than had been the case in the 1960s.

One of the major developments at Doon Pioneer Village in the early 1970s was the decision to build the Waterloo County Hall of Fame at the southwest corner of the village's property. Although there was much debate as to the appropriateness of the village as the location for the Hall of Fame, construction began in 1971 and the Hall of Fame opened in 1972.

From the latter half of the 1960s through the 1970s, Albert Green, also known as Chief Pale Moon, educated visitors about Canada's First Nations and their peoples. Green, who usually wore tribal dress, was originally from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford. Green's interpretation to visitors included First Nations' history as well as political discussions regarding the poor treatment of his people from the time Europeans first arrived in North America through the present day.

During the 1970s, several buildings were moved to the village. One of the most historically significant buildings, relocated in 1974, was the Peter Martin House moved from Weber Street North in Waterloo. The house, built ca. 1820, was originally owned by Peter Martin and his wife Anna Zimmerman. Many members of the local Mennonite community trace their ancestry back to this family.

The 1970s were also noteworthy for the acquisition of artifacts, many of them of provincial and national significance: the Moses Eby desk, dated 1817; the Moritz Lindner toy and Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) collection; the Schoen Nativity Creche made in the 1880s. Many of the more than 100 quilts in the collection were also acquired in the 1970s.

In addition to historically significant artifacts and those that help reveal household and farm life in earlier eras, some curiosities were acquired in the 1970s such as a small fragment of yellow silk reputed to have been taken from the ceiling of Marie Antoinette's bedroom during the French Revolution.

Many community organizations actively participated in hosting events and setting up exhibits in the 1970s. For example, the K-W Amateur Radio Club installed a telegraph key in the Petersburg Railway Station which when pushed tapped out the message "Greetings from the Doon Pioneer Village" in Morse code. The Club also helped install an exhibit of radios and related broadcasting technology.

Over the years, one of the constant comments from visitors has been the beauty of the village's setting. As the Cambridge Daily Reporter said in 1975, "The village still retains the peaceful beauty that was present when it opened 15 years ago. Even the setting of the village adds a touch of the past with its vista of green trees and sloping hills."


colour wallThe winds of change at Doon Pioneer Village were on the horizon as the 1980s began.

In 1979 and again in 1981, two separate reports commissioned by the Grand River Conservation Authority recommended radical changes to the village's layout and management structure. The future viability of the village, the reports stated, was bleak if the long-term preservation of buildings was not addressed. And the artifact collection, amassed over the previous decades but stored in attics, basements and barns, was at serious risk.

The Kitchener Waterloo Record, in a 1981 editorial, compared Doon Pioneer Village to a patient. "Awhile back," they stated, "the doctor, in this case a consulting firm, was called in to diagnose the patient's ills. He found many . . . . as a treatment, the doctor recommended a long list of reorganization measures plus the long-term spending of $1.6 million."

The criticisms levelled at the village left many long time supporters sad and disillusioned, yet everyone recognized the need for change and hoped for a rejuvenated museum in the future. And it was stated repeatedly by all involved that significant operating and capital investments would be required to turn the village around.

The Region of Waterloo answered the call. At a special luncheon in November 1982, the "keys to the village" were symbolically transferred from the Ontario Pioneer Community Foundation and the Grand River Conservation Authority to then Regional Chairman Jim Gray. And in January 1983, the Region assumed ownership and operation of the site with the knowledge that some radical "surgery" had to occur to address the issues raised in the consultants' reports.

One of the most noticeable changes became official in the summer of 1985 when the name Doon Pioneer Village and Heritage Community was changed to Doon Heritage Crossroads. The name change coincided with a refinement of the mission for the village. Whereas previously there were different restoration dates for each of the historic buildings, it was determined that a consistent restoration date of 1914 throughout the village would help give a clear direction to the village's growth.

An ambitious redevelopment plan for the village began in earnest. Several research documents concentrating on hydro-electricity, landscapes, and rural life in the first decades of the twentieth century were completed.

The first of many planned historic building re-restorations was completed with the opening of the Dry Goods and Grocery Store in 1985, followed by the Tailor Shop and Post Office in 1987 and the Peter Martin House in 1988.

Each of these restorations corrected structural problems such as leaking roofs and basements. Interior furnishings were researched, conserved and/or replaced. A blend of original artifacts and reproductions, allowed for active hands-on programming. For example, in the Dry Goods and Grocery Store "new" reproduction stock on the shelves such as tin cans and cereal boxes gives the appearance that these products truly are available for sale.

But in 1988, development plans at the village were thrown into question once again when three severe summer floods transformed the usually tranquil Schneider Creek into a raging torrent of whitewater. Planning was quickly initiated to review the risk to historical resources which might be affected by future flooding. It was recommended that improvements to the Creek banks along with reducing the historical resources - both buildings and stored artifacts - in the Creek's flood plain would assist in reducing future losses.

The 1980s also saw plans developed for a Regional History Museum to address the need to properly store and exhibit the large artifact collection. These plans were set aside in 1989 due to funding constraints.

The 1980s were also marked by rejuvenated education programs, tied to the curriculum of area school boards. And Doon Heritage Crossroads' volunteer program, the backbone of all museums was revitalized. A complete review of special events led to strengthening of some long time traditions and the creation of new events tied to Doon Heritage Crossroads' refined mandate.


colour wallThe 1990s saw considerable change for everyone in Ontario. At Doon Heritage Village, the changes were profound and perhaps more significant than any other developments at the village since its founding in the 1950s. As we entered our "forties", we reflected upon our own history as a museum and all of the individuals who have contributed to our successes and supported us in difficult times over the past five decades.

The most significant change and the impetus for many more, occurred in October 1995 when the Waterloo Regional Curatorial Centre was completed at Doon Heritage Village. The Curatorial Centre will bring together under one roof all of our collections, which were identified as "at risk" in earlier decades. The Curatorial Centre was funded through the Canada/Ontario Infrastructure Works Program; the total cost of the project having been shared equally by the Governments of Canada, Ontario and the Region of Waterloo.

The 32,000 square foot building is divided into two principal functions: staff support and most importantly, collections management, conservation and storage.

In the early 1990s, the plans for a regional history museum developed in the 1980s were revised and the two principal functions of collections preservation and public exhibition were separated into two distinct facilities. It was proposed that these two facilities would be built in the future but no commitment was made as to when construction might occur.

In 1994, Regional Council decided to proceed with the first of these two facilities. In so doing, Regional Council recognized the primary importance of its collections, and the need for proper storage and preservation facilities.

The Region of Waterloo, through the construction of the Waterloo Regional Curatorial Centre, demonstrated leadership among Canadian municipalities in the importance which it places upon the preservation of its heritage. This leadership was honoured in 1996 by the Canadian Museums Association and the Ontario Museum Association, and in 1997 by the Archives Association of Ontario, as these organizations awarded the Region of Waterloo Awards of Excellence in Collections Management for the Curatorial Centre.

The construction of the Curatorial Centre has led to many more changes at the village. In late 1995, the former museum and administration building was demolished to make way for the development of a farm field in front of the Peter Martin House.

The uncertainty of the 1990s also led many organizations to be somewhat introspective and Doon Heritage Village was no exception. The huge changes of that decade have added to the desire to look back to see where we have been and to consider where we may go in the future. And with the passing of many friends and colleagues from the generation that founded and nurtured the village in the early years, it has also been a time to reminisce and remember.

It seems appropriate to end a discussion about 40 years of remarkable developments and in particular this past decade of change, with the words of Dr. Louis C. Jones who in 1959 addressed the annual meeting of the Ontario Pioneer Community Foundation and offered his answer to the question "Is it worth building a living history museum?" Jones noted that he too was living in a time that was equally fraught with change and uncertainty:

"I think it's important that in a very confusing and fast moving period we make clear to young people, to young couples with growing families, and to the sometimes querulous older people, the importance of knowing what our community roots are. A community that knows where it has been has a better sense of where it is going, just as an individual who understands himself knows better where he fits in our society. . . . you will reap values in citizenship, values in understanding of what Ontario is and has been and will be, from this kind of project. And this means good citizens. It means more good citizens than if you don't have it. And there is, I am convinced, no better investment than the investment in citizens."  Dr. Louis C. Jones.