GARDINER — The dust-covered contents of the former steel fabricator T.W. Dick Co. went for a pittance Friday in a city-run auction to empty the three buildings, all scheduled for demolition.

Many bids came in at $1, $2, $7, with friendly competition and the auctioneer, Gardiner City Manager Scott Morelli, telling potential bidders, “Own a piece of history.”

At the peripatetic auction — with the bidders traveling between floors in the two-story building at 1 Summer St. — some big big-ticket items were sold early.

Doug Bailey paid $1,500 for the vertical T.W. Dick sign that hung prominently over the corner of Highland Avenue and Bridge Street.

“We didn’t want it to leave town,” he said. “In my opinion, that was the best thing here.”

Bailey said the sign is likely to be placed at the nearby Percy Bailey Auto Sales, Inc. on Maine Avenue.

Both he and Peter Johnson, the successful bidder for the large flat, T.W. Dick sign on the Highland Avenue side of the building, said they want to preserve history.

Johnson, who retired a couple of years ago as a history teacher at Hall-Dale High School, paid $400 for the flat sign. He plans to use it somewhere in the former KeyBank building at Water Street and Brunswick Avenue that he and his son Peter Johnson own.

“Wherever it fits,” the elder Johnson said.

The company was founded in 1890, and records show that at one point it employed 35 people and had $2.6 million in annual sales. The property’s most recent owner closed it four years ago, according to city records.

The parcel at 1 Summer St. is expected to be developed into a medical arts building. The parcel at 24 Summer St. could be the site of affordable senior housing.

During the auction, two other, smaller T.W. Dick signs went for $80.

But the more prosaic pieces, the red canister for the central cleaning unit — which hadn’t been used in quite a while — went for $5 after Morelli couldn’t find a $10 offer.

A Xerox plotter with ink cartridges and paper used to print large drawings went for $25 to an unchallenged bidder.

“A heck of a deal,” one bystander said.

As eager buyers urged Morelli to auction off particular pieces, Anne Davis, director of the Gardiner Public Library, trailed behind, handing out receipts indicating who bought what and how much they had agreed to pay.

Outside in the bright sunshine, Robin Plourde, executive assistant to the city manager, checked in bidders, ensured they signed liability waivers before entering the buildings, then collected the money as they hauled out their prizes.

Pam Young, of Chelsea, told Morelli she wanted to bid on a wooden crane with a hook and pulley. She got it for $7 even though she had no clear plans for it.

“I can even put it on the outside of our barn and hang flowers from it,” she speculated.

Her husband, Kelby Young, an electrician, had paid $75 for a pipe threader that needed some parts, saying he would use it in his business.

Inside the building, broken window glass littered the floors and plastic sheeting covered part of the concrete ground floor. Some office areas held old calculators, drafting tables and other office fittings, and some more esoteric items, such as a tall copper-colored refrigerator.

Among the records stored on shelves was a multi-page bill of sale from 2001 for the fabrication of items that another company bought for use at Belgrade Central School.

Bidders saw treasure among the detritus.

Gardiner sculptor Rob Lash sat on the floor in an aisle between tall shelves and transferred dozens of steel rollers from a flimsy wooden box to a much heavier metal one.

“These are going to be welded together to make a sculpture,” he said. He said originally they might have been intended for use in a conveyor system.

With $55, Troy Bouchard, of Windsor, was the winning bidder — by a dollar — for a blue scale that weighed bolts.

“That thing’s heavy,” he said, as he toted it to his pickup.

Lisa Lagrange bought a stack of small wooden boxes for her Augusta business, Jellison Traders.

“People like industrial stuff they can take and re-purpose in their home,” she said.

Jim Perry, of Farmingdale, who is on the board of the Maine Antique Power Association, climbed a ladder to unbolt his $90 prize, a powered overhead lift connected to a cross bar.

Morelli opened the bidding after telling people that once the city covered its costs for the auction, any remaining proceeds would go to the state.

“We’ve had a lot more goods than I anticipated,” Morelli said partway through the auction.

Later, the auction was moving to an unheated storage building and then to the large, metal-sided fabrication shed, which borders the rippling Cobbosseecontee Stream.

There were 105 people who signed in as bidders, and the auction garnered $3,495.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.