Century-old Commerce home dismantled for wood

A stack of dark hardwood flooring removed from a house more than 150 years old was piled haphazardly on the dry, dusty ground as vehicles whisked by on the main drag in Commerce.

“That’s some pretty wood, I tell you what,” Jerry Dellinger commented as he took a break from the arduous job of dismantling a house that had withstood the ages. The salvaged boards will go to a carpenter, who plans to reuse the wood.

“He’ll take that and run it through a planer and you ought to see it,” said Dellinger, who along with Jeff Coker were laboring last week on the two-story house which was halfway torn down. Had the wood not had value, a bulldozer would have already leveled the house.

“It takes a lot of time,” Dellinger said about such piecemeal demolition work by two men. “We work together. There ain’t no boss.”

The house along North Elm Street was hit by lightning on Feb. 23 and heavily damaged by fire. At the time, the house had been divided into seven apartments, but none of the occupants were injured, according to Commerce Fire Chief Keith Whitfield.

There were also some large hardwood beams in the house that will also be saved, Dellinger said. But one never knows what the walls of an old house might reveal, according to Dellinger who lives outside Athens.

About 35 years ago, Dellinger said he was tearing down a house, also built in the 1800s, in the Five Points area of Athens when he opened a wall to reveal an old book.

“When I picked it up it crumbled, but it was full of old stamps. The stamps when you picked them up fell apart, but some were dated back in the 1600s. It made me sick — some were probably worth thousands,” he said.

And there was the old house from the 1800s in Oglethorpe County where he pulled out a huge old beam hand hewn with an ax.

“It must have been 33 feet long because it was the longest one I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve been tearing these things down for 40 years,” he said. When Dellinger had extracted the beam, the owner saw it and quickly realized he had an unusual piece of lumber.

“He got on the Internet and came back in about 15 minutes and said ‘I want to save every beam on that house.’ I said ‘Why?’ and he said ‘I went on the Internet and in 15 minutes (the beam) got up to $3,000.”

So far, the old house in Commerce had not revealed any old books secreted away in the walls or such mighty beams, but much of the wood will find a new place somewhere in another structure.