Once approved, Hepner home will be first Port Elgin Heritage Home designation

Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores) dates back to the mid-1800s and many of the homes built then, and in the early 1900s, still stand today.   One such residence is located at 697 Market Street and is known as the ‘Hepner’ home.

The house built by John Hepner, is located in a neighbourhood filled with homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s, but it has a unique history and, given that history, the current owners, Jutta and Juliane Job, made application to Saugeen Shores Town Council on January 8th to have it designated a Heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Looking at the history of the home, as a young man, Hepner worked for Samuel Eby who had established a brush factory in 1875 and, by 1883,  John Hepner established his own brush factory which was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt, and rebuilt again ten years after liquidation due to lack of working capital.

The new factory established in 1896, under the name “Stevens-Hepner Brush Ltd” expanded into one of Port Elgin’s most successful industries that thrived for well over a century.  It grew to become the longest continuously running manufacturing company in Port Elgin and the largest brush manufacturing company in Canada and the British Empire, employing over 200 people.

                       Stevens-Hepner Factory [Bruce County Museum Archives]
By the 1960s, their line included brushes and curling brooms that many curlers will recognize under the name “Curl Master Brooms”.

In the report to Council by the Municipal Heritage Committee Chair and Councillor, Cheryl Grace, explained that, “The house itself is an Edwardian architectural style which, according to the Ontario Heritage Trust’s definition, “has simple, balanced designs, straight rooflines and relatively simple detailing. Cornice brackets and braces are block-like; most doors and windows have flat arches or plain stone lintels. Buildings in this style generally have smooth surfaces and many windows. Compared to the exuberant Victorian predecessor styles, Edwardian Classicism exhibits more compact and massing, restrained use of ornament and less elaborate colour schemes.” (Ontario Heritage Trust…Architectural Style guide)

“The exterior has a large roof with wide overhanging eaves, a smooth monochromatic red-brick finish with corner quoining, and the front porch is supported by half columns on top of short concrete-and-brick piers. The front door has leaded bevelled glass, and the generous fenestration includes many window frames with bevelled leaded glass and some stained glass. The large roof has substantial overhanging eaves and four dormers feature classical wood frames. The interior of the home is notable for its oak woodwork, wainscoting, panelled pocket doors, French doors with etched glass, built-in cabinetry, hardwood flooring throughout, and staircase with Arts and Crafts newel posts and spindles.”

There are nine criteria as set out by the Province with two required to qualify for designation.  The Hepner home meets five of the criteria, three of which are:

  • Design or physical value (its Edwardian architecture and innovative heating system)
  • Historical or associative value (John Hepner and the Stevens-Hepner Brush Company)
  • Contextual value (its adjacent century homes, historic neighbourhood, and proximity to the sites of the brush factory and GTR station). As such, the property is a significant built-heritage resource.

The home is situated in an area of Port Elgin that is characterized by a number of buildings dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and, on either side of the residence, are houses built more than a century ago in the Gothic Revival style.

One of the more unique facets of the home is that of the revolutionary and innovative, at the time, heating system that was still used up until the 1970s.

Through a system of underground pipes, steam heat produced by a steam engine in the factory across the street was conveyed under Market Street to provide central heating, not only for the Hepner residence but also for a number of storage sheds situated on lots just north of Hepner’s home. At the time the home was constructed in 1910, central heating was still uncommon and rare, particularly, from a remote source and was experimental in Canada.

In 1919, Hepner sold the property to factory foreman, George Black, and in 1943, the Estate of George and Isabel Black sold the property to Alan W. Saxton, superintendent of Stevens-Hepner Brush Co.  Then, in 1971, Alan W. Saxton sold the property to Wolfgang and Jutta Job, who have made the application to Council for the Heritage designation.

Today, in compliance with provincial legislation, the Official Plan specifies that “Built heritage resources or cultural heritage landscapes, such as individual buildings may be designated pursuant to the Ontario Heritage Act and the expanded regulations that came into effect with the provincial “More Homes Built Faster Act,” in January 2023.

In addition, the Town Official Plan includes the following relevant policies that under the Preservation of Heritage Resources, “It shall be the policy of Council to encourage the preservation of buildings and sites having historical, architectural and/or archaeological value” and “Council may designate and regulate heritage resources under appropriate legislation, including the Ontario Heritage Act, the Planning Act, and the Municipal Act, whenever deemed feasible.”

According to Councillor Cheryl Grace, the approved application would make the Hepner house the first designated home in Port Elgin.

The application was submitted by Jutta and Juliane Job with the assistance of Sheila Latham (volunteer researcher and writer) and Bruce County Archivist Deb Sturdevant and Archives Assistants Susan Schlorff, Krista Keller, and Heather Callaghan … and the application was approved by Council.

* Once received by Council, the process begins with a public notice ahead of the actual designation being finally approved by Council.