Neubergthal, Man., sees major Parks Canada grant for barn restoration

A small community in Manitoba is getting a big boost from Parks Canada.

The village of Neubergthal will see a $560,000 matching grant to help restore the Klippenstein house barn, a historic structure in the community about 95 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

"The story we've always heard about this barn is that these families first settled near Steinbach and then, wanting better farmland, they moved to the open prairie and they moved the barn with them," said Ray Hamm with the Neubergthal Heritage Foundation.

"When they came here, there was not a tree in sight, and so maybe they said, 'Well, we'll have to bring the barn with us.' We don't know for sure."

Neuburgthal is already a national historic site, recognized as one of the first agricultural settlements in the Canadian Prairies after Confederation.

The Mennonite community has also preserved its design — a single road dotted with houses, acreages, community amenities and its unique house barns.

"The house barn is just what it says," said Hamm. "The house and the barn are attached end-to-end in Neubergthal. That's the pattern. In other villages, it's a T-shape."

The Klippenstein house barn, which was built in 1928, according to the Manitoba Historical Society, is one of nine currently in the village and has already had some renovations on the inside, but more are needed and the outside is in bad shape. 

"So the exterior of the barn will be restored to original appearance," said Hamm. "The interior of the barn will become a multi-purpose open space for cultural events, music, for tour groups, for displays, for community events, for rentals, whatever we can put in there."

The matching grant means the community must also raise the same amount of money, but Hamm said they are well on their way, with more than $300,000 raised so far.

The Klippenstein house barn isn't the only project on the village's radar, as the local heritage foundation would also like to finish restoring the schoolhouse, a home from the 1880s that has been repurposed as a picnic shelter and other projects, totalling $2.5 million.

Hamm said he hopes people will come and visit the village when the renovations to the barn are completed — which is expected to be done by March of next year. 

"We live here. We're not an exhibit, we're not a museum, but we're willing to share," said Hamm. "I [hope we can help] people understand something of the work, courage of the people who first came here. And this is a place where you can feel the story, not just read about it."