Norway selectmen order barriers around damaged store

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NORWAY — Selectmen have ordered that barriers be placed in front of the damaged L.F. Pike & Son store on Main Street. 

The temporary measure was approved at Thursday night’s board meeting. The barriers are to protect pedestrians should the large storefront windows blow out if the building collapses.

Construction barrels were placed in the private alley on the east side of the building because of the potential of a chimney collapse.

A public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Dec. 18 in the Town Office at 19 Danforth St. to determine whether the historic building is dangerous or a nuisance under the town’s ordinance. After hearing public comments, the board will decide on the appropriate action, which could include demolition of the building.

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Town Manager David Holt said if the board determines the building is dangerous and dilapidated he will recommend it be razed and the debris removed by Jan. 22, 2015.

“We want certainty when it will come down,” Holt said.

He said he spoke with owner Lesley Gouin Dean of Stoneham on Thursday morning in an apparent failed attempt to reach an agreement on taking the building down.

“There’s a lot of emotion in this case,” Holt said, because he’s been friends with the owners for so long.

The men’s clothing store opened in 1884 and closed in 2011, Dean said previously. Her father, Arthur N. Gouin Jr., owned and operated it from 1980 to 2003. She took over the operation after her father retired.

The store’s pitched, metal roof, which was built about 10 years ago over the original flat, wooden roof, collapsed under heavy snow in March. The collapse uncovered years of rot, mold and other structural problems.

Resurgence Engineering of Portland, which specializes in historic buildings, determined stabilizing the building at 339 Main St. after the roof collapse would involve “time, money and materials.”

But by November, Dean and her husband, Gary, decided it did not make sense to repair it and the board voted Nov. 6 to have it demolished.

Later than month, the town proposed knocking it down with an excavator, and Dean would be responsible for removing the debris, which is expected to cost thousands of dollars. The town also asked that the area temporarily be roped off.

Dean said she did not to accept the town’s offer to immediately tear it down because she and her husband would not have enough time to remove the items they want to preserve and document the building’s history.

The store is considered one of the oldest buildings in the Norway Downtown National Historic District. The district is a collection of buildings, anchored by the Norway Opera House, that are considered worthy of preservation but the designation does not prevent a building owner from razing a structure.

The National Register of Historic Places was authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and is under the National Parks Service.

The National Parks Service says owners of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places can generally do whatever they want with their property as long as there are no federal monies attached to the property and no state or local preservation laws that would affect the building.

The Deans have set up a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pages/The-Blue-Store/746685888734724, to document the process to disassemble the building and its contents before the building is razed. They are also documenting the history of it as they begin to uncover previously unseen architectural elements under ceiling panels and plaster.

ldixon@ sunjournal.com

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