NORWAY — After 140 years, the end did not come easily for the L.F. Pike & Son clothing store on Main Street.
Owner Lesley Gouin Dean has announced that efforts to save one of the oldest buildings in the National Historic District were unsuccessful and that the building must come down.
“After much research, soul searching, anguish and more than a few tears, Gary and Lesley have made the impossibly difficult decision to take the building down and rebuild it hopefully beginning next spring,” she said in a statement.
The plan is to use a “surgical approach,” removing any architectural feature that can be saved for later reuse and to have the building down by mid-November, she said.
Earlier this year, the roof buckled under the weight of snow, flattening the peaked metal roof that was constructed about 10 years ago above the original flat roof to stop leaks.
Known as the Blue Store, 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. It features a high false front for signage and was built in several sections.
It closed in 2011. Dean’s father, Art Gouin, owned the store from 1980 to 2003.
“When hotelier Beal and his partners built the building we know today as Pike’s or the Blue Store as a “temporary” building, with little or no foundation and at least a third shorter than we see it today, we can be reasonably sure they had no idea that over time it would have at least three additions, electric lights, central heat and indoor plumbing, that the passage of decades would add larger windows, a makeshift partial foundation or even the tin ceilings,” Dean said.
Dean said the facade, which was unusual for New England, was very likely quite a sensation in its day and was kept in place in spite of decades of evidence that it created water and snow problems, probably starting only a couple of decades after construction.
“Hitching posts and plank sidewalks in front and a stable behind, no one needed to consider the impact of automobiles, much less tractor-trailers,” she said.
Dean said she and Gary have been “peeling back the layers of time,” over the last several months and have made some discoveries, such as a plaster ceiling above the tin ceiling, an early electrical conduit system, refitted windows and early plaster patches.
Dean said she also found that even after the false roof was added water continued to find its way into the walls and facade, deteriorating the structure and creating a large mold issue. A new sill was added around 2004 to 2006, but the building continued to sink.
The pair consulted architects, engineers, contractors and carpenters, who told them the building might be repaired, but it would be “more Band-Aids” and that the mold could be treated, but there was no guarantee it would not return.
“Even with modern products and knowledge, it would still be a 140-year-old building with many structural problems,” she said.
Dean said she and Gary will continue to research the history of the building. They will use a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Blue-Store/746685888734724?ref=aymt_homepage_panel), set up recently to chronicle the repairs of the building, to track what she calls their “new journey.”