The Loomcrofters Studio building is one of the oldest buildings in New Brunswick, dating to about 1789. Although once believed to be about 30 years older, dendrochronological work (dating core samples from the beams and boards) provides a more accurate date that fits the development of modern Gagetown and Queens County much better. Possibly built as a British military storehouse, it may have also been constructed as a private home. Further research is required now that a proper date has been established.
About 1945, M. Patricia Jenkins (1912-1985) moved the historic 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.
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.
The Loomcrofters Studio is 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 Loomcrofters Studio, 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.
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