Town of Mahone Bay recognizes 14th heritage property

by Kevin Mcbain

  • <p>KEVIN MCBAIN PHOTO</p><p>Owners Jessika Hepburn and Chris Graham are the current owners of the Biscuit Eater Caf&#233; &amp; Books, Mahone Bay&#8217;s newest heritage property located on 16 Orchard Street.</p>
  • <p>MAHONE BAY MUSEUM PHOTO</p><p>An undated photo of the home and property at 16 Orchard Street.</p>
  • <p>KEVIN MCBAIN PHOTO</p><p>Built in 1775, the current site of the Biscuit Eater Caf&#233; &amp; Books, 16 Orchard Street is the newest heritage property designated in the Town of Mahone Bay.</p>


The building that is currently home to the Biscuit Cafe & Books at 16 Orchard Street became the 14th property to gain heritage status in the Town of Mahone Bay. A ceremony was held October 26th to recognize the building's heritage.

"I think the significance of the whole heritage property notion is that the citizens are choosing to provide a link between the town's past," said Town of Mahone Bay Mayor David Devenne. "This house we just designated was built in 1775, that's a year before the American revolution. The town looks forward to keeping that link with the past."

It has served as a café or restaurant for many years. Currently Jessika Hepburn, partner Chris Graham and sister-in-law Beth Brown took over the building three years ago.

Hepburn says that it is considered to be one of, if not the oldest building, remaining within the Town of Mahone Bay. "Depends who you ask," said Hepburn, adding that being an owner of a heritage building is great, but that it comes with some obligations.

"It means that the town has gone out of its way to recognize the historical value of this building and its contribution to the community," said Hepburn. "To us, it means that we are caretakers of this incredible, historic place and now we have an obligation to maintain and preserve it."

The café and its property will now be registered provincially.

In order to maintain the heritage status, any changes to the exterior of the building must be historically accurate and must have the approval of the town's heritage advisory committee.

The committee is the body that chooses whether a property is eligible to become a heritage property.

Each submission is carefully reviewed and graded on a point system based on several factors including age, architectural aesthetic features, historical association, cultural/social/spiritual/scientific significance and the importance to the community now.

The heritage society produced a Statement of Significance regarding the property which explains the history of each historic property.

In the statement, it says that the defining elements of 16 Orchard Street include: location as shown on the 1860 Mader Plan of Division; 18th and 19th century architectural details such as the wide roof overhang sitting close to the top of the windows, wide corner boards, large central chimney, horizontal wood cladding and 6/6 windows; the modest one-and-a-half storey scale; and its original site orientation toward the harbour.

The building was first owned by John George Zwicker. He came to the area as a small child with his family from what is now Germany during the foreign protestant settlement process initiated by the British. In 1777 he purchased a 340-acre mill property and building from Joshua Mauger's agents at the western area of the bay.

After his death in 1815, his four sons each got a share of the homestead at 16 Orchard Street, and mill and divided the remaining mill lands among themselves.

One son, Henry, sold all his share in 1837 to John Adam Mader, the great grandson of Ulrich Mader who was also part of the 1753 settlement of Lunenburg.

After John Mader's death, his heirs divided the remaining 24 acres in a land division recorded on an 1860 plan that shows roads, numbered lots and the homestead lot with a drawing of a house on it.

The lots and streets laid out in the Mader Plan shaped the development of the town. His descendants continued to live in the house until 1949. The building at 16 Orchard Street was originally set on a large lot with nothing obstructing its prominent position at the town's crossroads or its view overlooking the harbour.

After a fire in 1978 gutted much of the interior, subsequent renovations included the addition of dormers and an extension. Despite the changes, this 240-plus-year-old building is a good example of 18th century architectural vernacular and provides a sense of the history of the town.

For more information on heritage properties contact the town office or visit their website.

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