Hepworth Shallow Lake legion seeking input on rebuilding plans
Rob Gowan
Published Dec 15, 2022

The burned out remains of the Hepworth Shallow Lake Legion branch in Hepworth, Ontario, on Saturday,
January 22, 2022, a day after it was destroyed by fire. Photo by Rob Gowan /jpg, WI

The Hepworth Shallow Lake Royal Canadian Legion is ready to begin the rebuilding process.

The general membership of Branch 586 unanimously voted at a meeting on Dec. 8 to accept a settlement offer from its insurance provider, Aviva Insurance. Settlement details are not being disclosed.

With the settlement, the legion executive is now seeking ideas from members, as well as the community, on what they would like to see the new facility include.

“Our biggest thing is we want the legion to succeed so we need to figure out what it is going to take,” said Karie Cole, the branch’s president and public relations officer. “This is our chance to build it to make it succeed.”

The legion branch and its contents were completely destroyed by a fire that started in the furnace area on Jan. 21. The estimated loss was more than $2 million.

The expansive 13,500-square-foot building, which was designed as a music hall, was host to acts such as Stompin’ Tom Connors, Mel Tillis, Leroy Van Dyke, Whispering Bill Anderson and other Nashville artists over the decades. It was also home to the Bruce Grey Music Hall of Fame, which lost some valuable artifacts in the blaze, including a practice guitar that belonged to local music legend Alfie Fromager and a fiddle donated by Harry Parker’s family.

In March, the legion membership unanimously endorsed a recommendation from the executive to rebuild.

Cole said members of the executive do not yet know what shape the new building will take, but doesn’t expect the small rural legion to be able to resurrect a building like they had before. She said they are keeping an open mind about what the new build will look like, with the members and community input deciding their direction.

“What we had before was obviously too big for us. It was massive,” said Cole.

At the last general meeting, members were asked to put their thoughts to paper and submit ideas for the rebuild by the next general meeting on Jan. 12.

The branch has established a building committee, chaired by Jim Copp, that will take the recommendations and work to determine what is wanted and what is needed in the community.

Cole said generating revenue will be an important factor in the rebuild.

“We have to build a legion that is going to create revenue so that it can stay afloat,” she said. “We have been consulting with other legions on how they continue to bring in the revenue to keep them open.”

Cole said some branches have attached apartments, include rooms that can be closed off and rented out for community club meetings, birthday parties or other functions, or have larger halls for activities like dancing or sports like pickleball.

Fundraising is continuing for the rebuild as the insurance settlement is not expected to cover the entire cost. Cole expects more information on fundraising targets following the meeting in January.

“We ultimately had insurance, but at the end of the day with the economy the way it is, it is probably never going to be enough,” said Cole, who added the community has been very supportive and generous so far.

“We have actually had quite a few people join our legion, which has been great.”

A GoFundMe page, called “Rebuilding Hepworth Shallow Lake Legion br 586” has raised over $9,000, while donations made directly to the legion are also being accepted at 9 Legion Rd., Hepworth, Ont., N0H 1P0.

While the site of the legion has been cleared following the fire, an office trailer has been set up on the site and is staffed on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Updates and information is also posted to the legion website at hepworthshallowlakelegion.ca and on Facebook.

Cole said they plan to move forward with the rebuild as soon as possible. Following the input phase, the next step will be to hire an architect to design the new building. Cole said she is hopeful the build can begin in the spring.

Hepworth-Shallow Lake Legion To Start Rebuild Process After Insurance Settlement
Matt Hermiz
Dec 15, 2022 | 12:30 PM

Hepworth-Shallow Lake Legion 1st V-P Jim Copp, president Karie Cole, speaking along with general members and executive members, Marie Mole, Bill Jones, Bill Cutting, Dave & Diane McDougall Mille Copp, Scott & Laura Shearer, Norm Walker, Bill Vanstone, George Coffin and Molly Simon. (submitted photo)

The Hepworth-Shallow Lake Legion is getting ready to explore different ideas for a rebuild after accepting a settlement from its insurer for its building, which was completely destroyed by fire nearly a year ago.

Jim Copp, 1st Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 586, says the settlement allows the legion to build “any sized building we choose” and does not constrain them to following the footprint of the previous structure.

“That opens up a whole bunch of options for us as far as designing a building that is current with today’s legion,” Copp says. “We’ll get some input from members and come up with a design that looks after our short-term goals as well as our long-term goals, something that will be sustainable in the future.”

The 13,500 square-foot legion branch building in Hepworth was completely destroyed in a massive five on Jan. 21, 2022. The building and all of its contents — including valuable memorabilia such as medals, vintage war items and guns were a total loss. It was also home to the Bruce-Grey Music Hall of Fame, who will apparently approach the legion to see if there’s an opportunity to be included in the new space once its constructed.

With the insurance settlement now out of the way, Legion President Karie Cole says the building committee plans to reach out to members and the community to find out what they would like to see with a new building.

Cole and Copp mention a range of possibilities that could be considered for incorporating in the new space: apartments, seniors housing, meeting rooms, a hall.

“We have all kinds of options. That’s what we need to see,” Cole says . “We’re coming up with plans and designs of what we want to see and what’s going to generate revenue for us. And then we’ll go from there.”

Cole says there’s no firm timeline as of right now for when construction could potentially begin. The focus in the near-term is to consult with the community and identify a design concept to move forward with.

“Once we design that and get funding going, we will start making plans and get something built,” she says.

The Hepworth-Shallow Lake Legion Branch has continued to operate since losing its building in the fire earlier this year. They’ve been working out of a temporary office trailer on the site of the former structure in Hepworth. In fact, Copp says they’ve added 20 new members since the devastating blaze.