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REMEMBER THIS? The tale of Laird Hill's famous Dwarf Village

In this week's Remember This? the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library archive tells us the story behind John Wenmaekers' popular attraction


While it may have been open for less than a decade, Dwarf Village, located on Laird Hill, (east of Sault Ste. Marie) provided a memorable experience for local children in the 1960s and 1970s.

The village, which showed tableaus from fairytales, was the brainchild of John Wenmaekers. Wenmaekers had emigrated from Holland in 1961 and, a few years after he arrived, he began to plan the tourist attraction. With his family’s help, he poured time and money into getting Dwarf Village up and running. As the advertisements proclaimed, “Everything you will see in Dwarf village is handmade and is a result of thousands of hours of work.”

When it opened on June 1, 1968, Dwarf Village consisted of a walking path that took visitors through fairytale scenes including Hansel and Gretel, Humpty Dumpty, Snow White, and more. An advertisement from the grand opening provided a lengthy list of the other features, including a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel, a wishing well, and plenty of food. The refreshment area consisted of a wagon and windmill, where concessions could be purchased, and a picnic area.  Some of the food was local, with Model Dairy proudly announcing in a Sault Star ad that attendees could “also enjoy Model Dairy’s Quality Chek’d products at the Dwarf Village too!”

Dwarf Village opened yearly in the spring and closed in the fall for the season. Mother’s Day was a particular focus for marketing, due to the proximity to the first open days of the year. On Mother’s Day in 1969, Dwarf Village pitched their location as the perfect activity for the day, offering the first 50 mothers a free carnation, along with free food for the kids.

In the years following its opening, Dwarf Village made no small impact on the community. In 1968, the village won first prize for a commercial float in the Community Night Parade. In 1970, a concert put on by the Lakeway Collegiate music program featured an original composition for recorders called the Dwarf Village Suite which the Sault Daily Star described as “giving impressions of a visit, complete with bird calls and train sounds.” Moreover, in the same year, the village also marked the finish point for the Sir James Dunn Choir when over five dozen students and their parents walked from the ‘Dunn’ out to Laird and raised $1,300 for the choir. It was the destination for countless school trips and family outings.

While Wenmaekers had intended to continue work on Dwarf Village for his entire life, it was not to be. In 1976, he ran classified ads selling “many many items” from the attraction, including cedar posts, poles, painted rocks, used lumber, and sheeting. Dwarf Village closed permanently to make way for the expansion of Highway 17.

As for Wenmaekers, in 1980, he opened Putter’s Park, an indoor miniature golf course in Winnipeg, Manitoba. According to the Sault Star, he retained his connections to Sault Ste. Marie, however, and “still considered himself a Sault-Winnipeg commuter.” 

Dwarf Village is no more, but remains immortalized in photos and in the memories of those who visited.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here

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