by Stephen Dafoe
The Musée Morinville Museum would like to make the nearly century-old Heppler house part of their collection. The Morinville Historical and Cultural Society met with an expert in moving historical buildings Feb. 3 to get his take on the early Morinville home.
Often called the Heppler House, the home was first constructed in 1920 by a Mr. Desantel, who sold it to JC Heppler, a notary public, after the building’s attic had caught fire. Heppler repaired the fire damage and subsequently bricked the home in the late 1920s.
Almost one hundred years after construction, the building, and a neighbouring structure will soon make way for a new 15,000 square foot, Professional Building. But property owner Rick Dozois is mindful his new $2.5 million facility needs to recognize the history that preceded it. As such, he has committed to at minimum telling the former buildings stories in the new one but also has been working with the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society to see what can be done.
Museum Operations Attendant Donna Garrett said the Feb. 3 tour and inspection of the Heppler home with Merlin Rosser, Heritage Sites Manager for the Musée Heritage Museum in St. Albert, was interesting.
“The brick is quite crumbling, and there are lots of cracks, but Merlin said you can move anything,” Garrett said. “It’s the cost that matters.”
Garrett said Rosser was preparing a report and hoped to have it to her for the Historical Society’s Feb. 8 meeting. She is anticipating the cost of moving the building will be expensive.
Whatever the cost will be, the question would be how to raise the money to pay for it.
Compounding the process is the level of work required to transport the home elsewhere.
“There was a brick factory in Morinville years and years ago, and Merlin thinks that these are local bricks,” Garrett said. “You would have to remove each brick from the house and number it, and then move the house, build the foundation where it is going, and build the [brickwork] up again.”
Whether the project becomes a reality or not, Garrett is clear the Historical and Cultural Society is not opposing the development.
“We are not standing in the way of progress,” she said. “These old homes that are crumbling – we’re not going to stand in the way of developers, but we want to do due diligence and see what’s possible.”
The museum has an interest in eventually developing an outdoor museum with houses and a church. The Heppler House could be part of that long-term dream.
“If we move it, where does it go,” Garrett said. “The first step is to find out if it can be moved. It’s a good way to open up the dialogue because it’s not going to be the last [historical] house that will come up. Do we just want to plow them all down or do we want to do something with them.
If the wrecking ball ultimately is the Heppler House’s fate, Dozois has committed to allowing the museum access to take what they want from inside. Garrett said even a small amount of items could help to preserve the home’s history.