The Loomcrofters Studio

A 1761 HISTORIC SITE

The Loomcrofters Studio building is believed to be the oldest building still in use on the St. John River. The oldest date found in the building is 1761 when it is thought to have been built by the British as a “Truck House” for trade with First Nations communities. The marks on the original shelves are clearly visible as are names and dates written on the walls since 1761. Though not a military “Block House” in construction, it has traditionally been so called because rifles and ammunition were stored there and used, as bullet marks show.

About 1945, M. Patricia Jenkins (1912-1985) moved the historic “Truck House” structure from the MacDermott/Reid property, Gagetown, a quarter mile south to its current site on the grounds of her recently purchased heritage home, Roseneath, built by the Honourable Hugh Johnston, Jr about 1810. The building was then set up as the primary weaving studio and retail shop for the Loomcrofters and used as such for almost seventy years, becoming a signature cultural tourism destination in the village of Gagetown.

Born at Hampstead in 1912, Miss Jenkins grew up in the village of Gagetown where her father, Willard Jenkins, was the highly respected physician for decades. A very educated woman with degrees in English, Psychology and Education from Acadia University and a teacher by profession, Miss Jenkins turned to weaving in the 1930s when her eyesight began to fail. She trained in Quebec with Oscar Bériau (1883-1947), the person responsible for rescuing the weaving movement in that province and a promoter of Canadian arts and crafts. In 1937 she became involved in a federal-provincial youth training program to develop community leaders to teach weaving and other trades.

In 1939 Miss Jenkins founded the Loomcrofters hand weaving studio at the Normal School, Fredericton, but soon moved the operation to the historic property at Gagetown she purchased in 1941. Over time the Loomcrofters gained world renown for their expertise in tartan design and production, including the design of the Royal Canadian Air Force Tartan (1943), the New Brunswick Tartan (1959), the City of Fredericton Tartan (1961) and specially commissioned, hand woven, official New Brunswick gifts to then Princess Elizabeth in 1951, Princess Margaret in 1958, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1967 and Princess Anne in 1973. Employing dozens of local weavers over the years including such local icons as the late Enid Inch and Myra D’Aoust, the Loomcrofters remained active and in business until the end of 2013.

A storey and a half, the building measures 20 feet x 26 feet with original framing, floors and interior woodwork. The building has been very well maintained on an adequate foundation and has had replacement of its shingle siding and roof as required over the years to secure and preserve the building and allow for continued operation as a prominent business and heritage attraction in the village of Gagetown. The only modern convenience introduced was electricity for lighting. The heating source remains a traditional wood stove.

In addition to the importance of the structure itself, the building contents include historic furniture, cabinets, tables, shelving and working looms used in the weaving process and in the business shop. Also included are reproductions of the official gifts to royalty noted above, remaining stock (ties, towels, ornaments, etc) from the closure of the business, and unused materials such as woollens, cottons and synthetics. Perhaps most significantly, the entire business archive of papers, patterns, notes, letters, bills and invoices remains intact making for a very valuable business record.

Not only is the building one of the oldest in the country and merits preservation, the well-known business marks a turning point in arts and crafts development in New Brunswick from cottage crafts for sustenance to craft, and in this case weaving, as an art form. In the process, continuing and preserving the fine history of weaving in Queens County and New Brunswick and inspiring a revival of the craft. Indeed, the Loomcrofters is the direct ancestor or the artisan community with today calls Gagetown and Cambridge-Narrows their home.

The people associated with the business – Patricia Jenkins, Enid Inch, Myra D’Aoust, Allen Hasson – to name a few, read as a who’s who of Queens County over three quarters of a century and their contributions to community life, culture and heritage warrant preservation as well. For example, in addition to her teaching career and business acumen, Miss Jenkins’ prominence in the region extended to over thirty years with the district school board (eventually the first woman chairperson), village council (deputy mayor), winner of an Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee medal, winner of a commendation from the American Association for State and Local History, and significantly for Queens County Heritage, she was the executive secretary of the Centennial Committee which oversaw the restoration of the Tilley House as a museum in 1967 and she continued to serve as manager of the national and provincial historic site until her death in 1985. Born in an era when most rural women completed grammar school, married and worked raising a family and on the family farm, Miss Jenkins chose a pioneering route of advanced education and a remarkable career in business and public service.

As a potential asset to Queens County Heritage, the acquisition of the Loomcrofters Studio, materials, objects, stock and archives represents an opportunity to preserve and interpret a story that is tremendously important to the evolution of arts and heritage in New Brunswick. As a tourism product with name recognition and a legacy of excellence, the preservation of the Loomcrofters Studio has unlimited potential to draw increased visitors to the village of Gagetown and the entire region and the expected economic spin-offs. The story of fine craft history is one seldom heard, but of high interest to visitor markets. A preservation, interpretation and programming project like the Loomcrofters Studio greatly enhances the ability of Queens County Heritage and the region as a whole to attract this market and contribute to the community’s sustainability.

The building, the contents, the archive, the people – the Loomcrofters Studio is without question one of the most complete and important heritage collections in the county, province and nation. It is the intent of Queens County Heritage to preserve this important piece of our community, provincial and national heritage.

On 2 December 2014, after several months of preparation, the Studio left Roseneath on its 8 hour journey to the grounds of the Tilley House. As heritage friends and supporters lined the streets, the expert crews and contractors transported this exceptional treasure along the streets of Gagetown. There were a few oh-oh moments for the observers, but in the hands of the experts, there were no real worries. Over the winter of 2014-15, the work will continue with securing the building for the winter, off site carpentry work and restoration, the cataloguing of the contents and finalizing the interpretive and programming plans for a re-opening in June 2015. Watch for the date and time of the celebration!




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patricia Jenkins
Queens County Heritage Patricia Jenkins

Princess Margaret, 1957
Queens County Heritage NB Coat of Arms, 1951

Loomcrofters Label
Queens County Heritage Loomcrofters Label

Book of Tartans
Queens County Heritage Book of Tartans

Replica stole, gift to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
Queens County Heritage Replica stole, gift to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

Replica stole and skirt, gift to Princess Margaret, 1957
Queens County Heritage Replica stole and skirt, gift to Princess Margaret, 1958

Princess Margaret, 1957
Queens County Heritage Princess Margaret, 1958


Queens County Heritage The Studio, c. 2000


Queens County Heritage The new site, 2014