The long-anticipated demolition of Hatch’s Store, including restoration of the land, took place over the five days of September 26th through 30th. The first day was one of extensive sitework to prepare for demolition. Trees were felled, an earthen platform was built on the south side of the building to support an excavator, crushed stone was laid on two access areas, and the barn at the south end of the property was removed.
Demolition of the store itself began in earnest on the misty morning of Tuesday, September 27th, at 7:30 am. Before any work began, Justin Hammond of Hammond C&D and his crew conducted a thorough reconnaissance of the building. They noted that it was leaning away from the road, a result of the rot in the rear caused by decades of water running off the hillside. This actually worked in their favor, since the direction of the lean made it unlikely that the building would fall towards the road. As a huge amount of debris must be hauled from any demolition site, Brian Ricker of Post Mills assisted the Hammonds with its transport.
Two excavator machines worked in tandem on the job. On the south end of the building, one machine tore out the low addition in the rear. This made room to drop the main building in pieces to the back, away from the road. On the north end, Justin started dismantling the main structure.
As the demolition of the north section progressed, it became the job of the machine on the south end to stabilize the building against the pressure from demolition on the north end. The goal was to avoid the collapse of the whole structure in an uncontrolled fashion. Stabilizing it allowed Justin’s machine to take the building down carefully, piece by piece. No wrecking ball here!
In all, it took one hour and twenty minutes to bring down the entire building.
Hammond C&D is a family-owned business out of Canaan, NH. Originally a sawmilling family, they turned to demolition in 2000 when the sawmill industry “took a dive.” Justin grew up in the demolition business and has operated equipment since he was eight years old. The company currently has nine employees, and business is good.
Justin noted that “anyone can put on a big show and make a mess” but old buildings like this are “tender” and need to be approached carefully. As much as possible, he removed the interior walls first, till just one column was supporting the structure. When that last column was knocked down the outer walls fell into the void he had cleared.
The Hatch’s project was easier than some because there were no adjacent buildings. He recalled demolition jobs where another house stood six feet away. In one such instance they paid the abutting neighbor $150 a day to stay out of her house during demolition hours, so she would be spared the noise and dust. It was worth it to keep good public relations.
The majority of the demolition debris was removed by the end of the afternoon of September 27th. The material was trucked back to the Hammond headquarters in Canaan, NH. Here it was reduced to small pieces in a two-stage grinding process. The primary grinder takes out the un-grindable debris like large metal with a magnetic “head pulley.” It then crushes the wood to pieces of about two feet. The secondary grinder removes small metal objects, like nails and hinges and further reduces the wood to two-inch pieces. On a typical job, the Hammonds recover 20-25 tons of nails and screws that are sent to a metal recycling facility.
The wood fragments have a use, too. They are trucked to the Lebanon landfill, not as garbage but to be mixed with sand and used as an inert layer to cover each day’s trash. This is required as part of the landfill’s operation to keep down odors, flies, etc.
While the fieldstone foundation was handsome, it unfortunately posed a risk since it was leaning towards the road. In the end, all the foundations above ground were removed.
By the end of the week the site was transformed. The foundations were gone, and a newly built fieldstone wall graced the edge of the trees on the north end. The slopes had been smoothly graded and covered in hay to control erosion.
One of the observers who stopped by for a while was Richard Hatch, whose great-uncle was Rollin Hatch. Growing up in Norwich, he played sports with John Freeman, and they have been lifelong friends. He recalled that his Hatch ancestors moved to Norwich from Connecticut in 1761 and were one of the founding Norwich families. Richard is an eighth-generation Vermonter (which makes his grand kids tenth generation) and still lives in Norwich, where he had a career in emergency response and “cheated death three times.” In their time, the family acquired various properties around the Upper Valley, and he thought that the original sign from Hatch’s Store might still be stored in one of them.
John Freeman does not yet have a plan for the site, although the base of the foundation has been retained, giving him the right to build on that footprint if he so chooses. He quipped that he could have “a two-lane bowling alley with no parking” on the long narrow site. In the meantime, he is determined that it will look attractive and has arranged for EC Brown’s nursery in Thetford Center to plant some trees. This land will soon grow green and might possibly become known as “Hatch’s Park.”
Photo Credits: Li Shen, John Freeman, Thetford Historical Society