OXFORD — The former Welchville Community Church, a landmark building in the Oxford village of Welchville, is being dismantled.
The property, including the building, at 476 Main St. has been on the market for several years, but with a slow economy there were no bites. The building sits on less than an acre of land at the intersection of Routes 26 and 121.
“We just couldn't pay the mortgage and justify it,” Mark Farrell said of the tough decision he made to dismantle the post and beam church and sell its components, including the bell, bell tower, reclaimed flooring, balusters, a wooden-dome ceiling and virtually everything else in the building.
Although the sale price with the building started around $173,000 and has been reduced significantly over time, Farrell said three independent appraisals of the property had valued it around $200,000.
On April 8, Farrell announced through a Facebook page that Farrell & Farrell, Inc., owners of the property, would begin the process of dismantling the building. The bell tower was taken off the roof a week ago.
The roughly 560 pound, 30-inch-wide bell was sold to an anonymous local resident. There were few markings on the bell and none that indicate the bell's maker, Farrell said.
Farrell said he is still determining the value of the weather vane, which will also be sold.
In a Facebook announcement, Farrell said, “This has been a very tough decision for many reasons. Not only has this building been a place of worship and a meeting place for the early settlers of Welchville, it has been a landmark many travelers.”
Farrell said he tried to make a go of the antique business, but winters being what they are in Maine and with the slow economy a few years ago, it was difficult.
“Business has picked up but the winters are (still) tough,” he said of the antique business he ran with his mother, who has since passed away.
Pickers Paradise, which had recently been leasing space in the building, has moved across the street to a new storefront.
Farrell said he is hoping removing the building and having just vacant land will be the key to selling the property. With the Oxford Casino now just up the hill and the town set to build a new wastewater treatment plant across the street which will provide sewer service, Farrell said it should be an easier sell this time around.
OXFORD — The Welchville church apparently originated as a Methodist-Episcopal Church.
Methodism had been in Oxford since the late 1700s, according to early histories, and the first Methodist sermon was preached in Oxford at a home in 1794. Methodist meetings were held at the Center Meeting House in the mid-1800s and, in 1868, the first Methodist church was built in Welchville.
Methodism came to the United States in the late-1700s. "Episcopal" comes from how the church is governed — in this case by a bishop, according to the 1893 book, "A Statistical History of the Maine Conference of the M.E. Church from 1793 to 1893" by the Rev. D. B. Randall.
In Norway, for example, in the 1930s there were both the Christ Church Episcopal and the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The first Methodist-Episcopal church in the U.S. was established in New York in 1769. The first in Maine was erected in 1795 in Readfield.
In 1966, Donald H. Mills wrote an article for the Lewiston Daily Sun describing the Welchville church, saying it has been known since the 1920s as the Welchville Methodist Church.
Mills said the original meeting house was constructed as a large, double-story auditorium with a choir balcony on one end. By the end of the 19th century, the building started to sway under heavy wind, necessitating stringer supports. At that time, it was decided to add on kitchen and dining facilities.
In 1906, the project was completed and a new bell was added.
Rev. Alan S. Stapleson, who was born in 1858 and died in 1901 in Welchville, was the minister of the church at the time he died. His death was noted in the Methodist Episcopalian Maine Conference meeting minutes, which also stated the church was undergoing a "gracious" revival, and substantial improvements were made to the church, its membership and the property in general at that time.
The wool mill closed early in the 20th century and many families left the area, according to Mills' article.
The church was incoporated in 1956 as the Welchville Community Church and became an auction house in the early 1970s.