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West Union General Store moved to the country

Sauk Centre Herald of Sauk Centre, Minnesota

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After years of debating the issue, Jerry Hiltner and his son Jamie took the plunge last fall to move the West Union General Store and Antiques building from West Union out to their hobby farm north of Fairy Lake.

Jerry Hiltner explained, "When we had our streets and sidewalks redone in West Union, we decided this was the right time to do it. To complete the sidewalk past the store, the building had to be jacked up to prevent damage to its exterior. The timing was right."

Jacking up the building to allow for a move to take place began in the spring of 2010. It was a long process.

"We had to start lifting the inside at a very slow pace," Hiltner said. "An inside beam was rotting and the floor was sagging. Straightening out the floor was required before the building could be moved."

Hiltner and his son turned the jack crank every other day in the beginning, while the air was moist from springtime weather. A stud wall was added down the middle of the first floor to beef up the structure's integrity. Cross members were eventually added when the studs began to bow.

The move from West Union to the Hiltner farm lasted two-and-a-half hours. That was half the battle. Getting the moving truck and machinery carrying the structure to make the turn onto their farm's driveway lasted three-and-a-half hours.

"It was a difficult process, but it all worked out," Hiltner added.

Hiltner's family bought the store in 1987 and operated it seven days a week from spring to fall as a traditional antique and general store. Guesses as to when the store was built date back to 1890.

"The West Union history book describes that in the early 1900s town meetings were held there," Hiltner said. "During the early years of my grandparents' marriage, my grandma talked about shopping there around 1918. Furniture was sold on the main floor, and a mortuary was operated on the second floor." Hiltner and his son have plans for adding features to the general store. Their goal is to have the store open again this coming spring.

"We're building on a front porch and will also add a back porch," Hilter said. "Jamie has plans to add a blacksmith shop that will have things such as old-time machinery and horse harnesses. It will be fun to reopen it and see what type of interest is out there with a historical building like that."

Original Publication Date: January 19, 2012



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