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Photos by Erica Techo.
A sign that was salvaged from the Weldon Store.
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Photos by Erica Techo.
Mayor Tony Picklesimer with a handmade sign that was constructed with wood from the former Weldon Store.
The Weldon Store stood in the same spot, at the corner of County Roads 39 and 47 for more than 100 years, before it was torn down in February. Chelsea’s city council first approved plans to dismantle and preserve parts of the Weldon Store during its Jan. 17 meeting. The front of the building was taken off piece by piece before an excavator was brought in on Feb. 9.
Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said the decision to take time to dismantle, rather than topple, the Weldon Store was made to preserve history and use pieces of the store in future projects.
“We took 10 days doing what could have been done in three or four hours if we didn’t care about the history, but we did care about the history,” Picklesimer said.
The deconstruction process started with removing the front panels of the building, as well as the doors and windows, which will be used at the future Weldon Pavilion in the Chelsea Sports Complex. While there were plans to save the façade of the building and other wood that was salvageable, the room above the store was found to have more materials that can be used in the pavilion.
“The entire thing was used with a tongue and groove hard pine, but it had never been painted. It was absolutely beautiful,” Picklesimer said. The pine will likely be used to line the awning and hallway at Weldon Pavilion.
Wood was not only removed for the pavilion, however. As it was taken down, wood from the store was separated into three piles — one for the Weldon Pavilion, one for future projects and one for public consumption.
“It was gratifying to be able to harvest and salvage. It was very somber, especially Thursday night,” Picklesimer said. “It was very somber, like the end of an era. But there was some gratification that so much of it could be used.”
On Friday, Feb. 10 a crew gathered whatever salvageable materials they could from the collapsed building, including the main posts and beams from inside, which could not be removed while the store was standing. After identifying usable wood that would not be used by the city, community members were able to take a few pieces home.
“What I thought would be a two- or three-hour process, it lasted all day,” Picklesimer said. “But that was OK because there were literally hundreds of people who came in.”
Residents already had constructed pieces to memorialize the Weldon Store just days after it was demolished. One resident, Winston Wilson, donated a piece — a metal cutout of the Weldon Store mounted on reclaimed wood — for display at city hall.
Other pieces of the Weldon Store will be placed around city hall in the future, Picklesimer said. The flag from the front of the building was taken down and cared for by the Chelsea Fire Department, who dried and folded it. A flag was first put up on the building after Sept. 11, 2001, and has been replaced as the sun and elements have aged flags.
The flag will be displayed in the council chamber inside of a case constructed of wood from the Weldon Store. A bench found in the store will be cleaned up and put on display in the council chambers as well.
“It was the hub of Chelsea for a long, long time — a city center,” Picklesimer said. “And I realize that, and I tried to honor that and continue to try and honor that.”