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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Stelmach Farm (Municipality of Bifrost-Riverton)

Link to:
Photos & Coordinates | Sources

Around 1981, a collection of farm building near Riverton in what is now the Municipality of Bifrost-Riverton was featured in a Manitoba Co-operator series on rural architecture. The original captions for the photographs are given below.

Due to the similar design characteristics, most early Ukrainian structures are easy to identify. Virtually all were one- or 1½-storey log structures, with southern orientation, a two- or three-bedroom rectangular plan, whitewashed, mud-plastered walls with a gable or hipped-gable roof of thatch. In Ukraine, regional variations in the basic design were quite prevalent, and as most of those who immigrated to Western Canada came from either one of two provinces – Galacia or Bukowinia – two regional styles dominated in Manitoba. The Galacian type, such as the one illustrated in the photograph, was smaller and more utilitarian than the Bukowinian. It invariably had two rooms, with the smaller “mala khata” on the west side serving as the main kitchen-work area, and the larger “velyka khata” reserved for special occasions, guests, and as the parents’ bedroom. Characteristically, the only entranceway opened onto the “mala khata” and the chimney was positioned on the kitchen side of the dividing wall. A straight gable roof was most common, with ceiling height eave projections on the ends, both features suggesting a German influence. Although thatched roofs were standard during the early years of settlement, by the 1920s they were replaced with roofs of wooden shingles which required less maintenance, and were less of a fire hazard, although they were not necessarily more efficient. A properly constructed and maintained thatched roof can shed water for up to 50 years or more. The Galacian-style house in the photo was constructed by Wasyl Stelmach and his wife in 1922, in the Riverton area. The timbers used in its construction were cut and shaped by hand, as the disappearing plaster reveals, the logs and dovetail joints were superbly fitted and are in as good physical condition today as the day they were cut over 50 years ago. The house is still habitable although son Joe Stelmach has recently moved into more comfortable quarters nearby.

Stelmach also constructed several other traditional Ukrainian-style farm buildings on the site, which display the same care and craftsmanship which he put into his house. The buildings, a barn or “stodola” and a “stinya” are illustrated in the lower two photographs. The “stinya” on the left housed poultry in one half and hogs in the other. This name refers to any building in which a variety of stock were kept. A neatly cut small hatchway for the chickens was constructed at ground level and can be seen just to the left of the door. The large loft area was used for feed and small equipment storage. The unusually steep pitch to the roof is a design transfer from the time when most Ukrainian buildings were built with thatch roofs which had to be steeply pitched to promote rapid runoff of rain. This same steep pitch is evident on the barn, which also features a prominent front gable and eave extension. This top-heavy roof design was more commonly found on smaller buildings such as the summer kitchens or storage sheds; however, Stelmach preferred this feature as it provided shelter for the stock and allowed for a convenient exterior loft access. It also increased the storage capacity of the loft, and protected the mud-plastered walls from rainwater damage. As with the other buildings, the logs used in the construction of the barn were carefully cut and shaped by hand. Some of the timbers are as much as 14 inches wide and extend the full 44 foot length of the building. Dovetailed joints, as usual, were used in the corners. A shed-roofed annex was added to the barn in the later years for young stock. Because of their relatively recent construction, all of the log buildings on the Stelmach homestead are in excellent physical condition and are still being used by son Joseph. The Stelmach homestead is one of the best preserved of all the early Ukrainian farmyards in the Interlake region. Donald Tyluk, who recently purchased the property, recognizes the value of such structures and plans on maintaining them in present condition.

At the time of a 2015 site visit, the buildings were in a severely deteriorated condition. The “Stodola” burned down sometime in the past and former owner Donald Tyluk died in June 2015.

Photos & Coordinates

Stelmach House

Stelmach House (circa 1981)
Source: Bob Hainstock

Stelmach “Stinya” on left

Stelmach “Stinya” on left (circa 1981)
Source: Bob Hainstock

Stelmach “Stodola” on right

Stelmach “Stodola” on right (circa 1981)
Source: Bob Hainstock

Stelmach Farm

Stelmach Farm (October 2015)
Source: Matthew McGhee

Stelmach Farm

Stelmach Farm (October 2015)
Source: Matthew McGhee

Stelmach Farm

Stelmach Farm (June 2019)
Source: Rose Kuzina

Stelmach Farm

Stelmach Farm (June 2019)
Source: Rose Kuzina

Stelmach Farm

Stelmach Farm (November 2020)
Source: George Penner

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N51.09822, W97.10281
denoted by symbol on the map above


Obituary [Donald Tyluk], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 June 2015.

We thank Matthew McGhee and George Penner for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Bob Hainstock, Ed Ledohowski, and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 7 October 2021

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