Weld Historical Society President Sean Minear gives plans for the public park to be developed at 1 School Street, the site of the former Weld General Store. He is standing next to a hitching post once located at the store. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

WELD — Plans for the public park that will be developed at the site of the former Weld General Store were announced by the Weld Historical Society at their August meeting. The meeting was held in the future park space.

The store was destroyed by fire in April 2019. It stood at the the intersection of School, Mill and Church streets, and Center Hill Road.

In June 2020 the historical society announced it had purchased the lot and started a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $60,000. The funds would be used to improve the former Weld General Store lot and replenish the significant amount spent to acquire the space.

This spring rubble was removed, the area covered with gravel and seeded.

“We had the driest spring in years,” Weld Historical Society President Sean Minear said. “It’s worked, we now have a lawn here. It’s thrilling to be able to drive down one of these roads and see this green space.”

A hitching post for horses, once located at the store and later donated to the society has been moved back to its original location, he said. Two important pieces of town granite have been incorporated, Minear noted.

A white clapboard building with large glass windows, lit at night will house the antique fire truck, 2-wheel fire jigger, 12-person toboggan, carriage and other transportation items.

“When a kid of any age stops at the Stop sign and sees that brass and bright red lit up, it will get hearts jumping,” Minear said.

An open framed timber structure with two open framed timber wings with old fashioned porch swings, similar to one at Maine Botanical Gardens is also planned. It will be made out of Douglas fir, covered with grape arbors and climbing roses backed with white dogwood. Balsam firs will be planted in back.

“One of the memories people have is of sitting on benches in front of the general store, watching cars go by,” Minear said. “We want to provide a place where people can sit and relax.”

The ‘Mountain Climbing from Weld’ sign will be back on the site thanks to a grant from Sugarloaf Charitable Community Fund, he said. An interpretive panel for the site, the village and the town in wider context is also planned.

“People have many memories of this space,” Minear said. “For decades (Camp) Kawanhee boys would walk up and buy penny candy. Many people remember buying gas, store cheese here. This was a great spot to see what was going on.

“Here we are again, sitting here creating new memories,” Minear noted.

A portion of the lot will also be paved, he said.

In 1830 Marshall and Sumner Walker built the store at the 1 School Street location, Minear said.

“It was the oldest 2-story building in the town of Weld,” he noted. “This was also the oldest continuous business in Franklin County until the fire in April, 2019. For 189 years a store had been operated here.”

The original town was up on Center Hill where the church, cemetery, school and liquor store were, Minear stated. What wasn’t there was water to power mills and the town gradually moved, he noted. Recognizing where the town was going to be, 14 years after its founding the Walker brothers built the store, he added.

“In our era the most familiar names are Cornwall, Masterman, Bronish, Stinneford, Nering, all names associated with Cornwall Community Center or Weld General Store,” Minear said. “In April, 2019, the store was tragically lost. It was a tremendous tragedy to Jerry Nering and his family but to the soul of the community as well.

“To drive by and see nothing here anymore is very difficult,” Minear noted. There were lots of rumors, then about a year later the ‘For Sale’ sign went up and emails and phone calls exploded, he said. The society couldn’t meet in the midst of COVID-19, to a person everyone contacted said ‘we have to do this no matter what the cost is, we don’t want to get five or ten years down the road and say we wish we had done this,’ Minear said.

“We took $10,000 from savings, $38,000 from a bank fund and the rest from the checking account,” WHS Treasurer Betty Simanek said, noting the total purchase cost was $70,089. Donations of $10 to $15,000 with $62,985 in all were received through the fundraising campaign, surpassing our goal, she added.

“That’s what good leadership does,” resident Jean Sickels said.

“This was a huge chunk of money to buy a quarter acre piece of land, we felt it was important,” Minear said, noting a committee had been formed. The committee includes Minear, Nancy Stowell, Naomi Doughty, Kevin Cochran, Laurie Pratt, Kate Estabrook Schoedinger, Ted Simanek, and Thomas Skolfield.

“This is going to be progressive, will take some time,” he said.

 

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