NORWAY — The L.F. Pike store on Main Street looks dark and cold from the outside.
But inside, a flurry of activity has been ongoing for months as owner Lesley Gouin Dean, her husband, Gary, and others have spent countless hours disassembling the 1885 building, storing its contents and piecing together the history of how it was constructed.
And it’s all being documented on Facebook.
On Oct. 14, the Deans set up a Facebook page devoted to the L.F. Pike Store, historically known as The Blue Store. The page received 100 likes in the first four hours.
The Deans’ work is being recorded on an almost daily basis on their Blue Store page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Blue-Store/746685888734724?ref=aymt_homepage_panel), which was set up to share information as well as to gather pictures and history of the building that others may have.
But time is running out.
Next Thursday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. the Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing at the Town Office on Danforth Street to determine whether the structure will be declared a dangerous and dilapidated building.
The false metal roof of the building, which was built in 1885, collapsed under the weight of snow in March of this year. By late October, the board agreed the building might jeopardize the public’s safety and needed to come down.
Jersey barriers were put in place on the westerly side of the building to prevent cars from parking too close to the building, and sawhorses were placed in the easterly alleyway to stop pedestrians and delivery trucks from being near the chimney that the board believes could collapse.
Late last month, the town offered the Deans the opportunity to have a town excavator simply push the building down, but they declined. They needed more time to disassemble the building, which they believe is safe to work in.
“There are still some things to consider,” Town Manager David Holt said Thursday when asked if the building will be immediately razed if declared a dangerous building. “The board might discuss whether or not to go to court for an order to remove the building. So the simple answer is one step at a time.”
One step at a time has been the methodology behind the Deans’ plan to disassemble more than 100 years of history in the building.
Although Dean and her family tried desperately to save the building, financial and health problems became an immediate obstacle months ago. Finally with the realization that the structure itself would not be easily renovated, they made the decision to raze it, but not before they removed its contents from the cellar up and documented its history.
Old doors, racks, tables, lumber and sewing machines have been hauled out of the cellar. Antique lights, more than 50 giant wooden drawers, old mannequins and tailor’s benches are now safely stored away. Sprinkler systems, pipes, tin ceilings and even the store’s awning are all being taken down and stored, some for reuse in a new building they hope to erect next year.
“No surprises yet, just unraveling history’s mysteries,” Dean told the Sun Journal when asked how the work was progressing.
Dean said the intent has been to document the building’s history as they take it apart.
“You have to figure out how it was put together in order to take it apart,” she said.
The Deans hope they will be able to build a similar structure on the same footprint and return many of the treasures they have found to the new store as soon as next year.
The building is part of the Norway Downtown National Historic District and one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1894 that wiped out a large section of the downtown business district.