The North Bend Eagle

Dozing Emanuel Welding
An excavator tears down the western portion of Emanuel Custom Welding on Thursday [April 26, 2012]. Roch Emanuel plans to replace it with a new building to house the business' office and retail side.

Dec. '09 fire claims final victim

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/2/12

In the wake of the December 2009 downtown North Bend fire, it looked like Emanuel Custom Welding would be the only business touched by the fire to survive.

The four buildings to the north of Emanuel’s were completely destroyed, but the welding shop apparently came away unharmed.

However, closer inspection revealed that the structure had been weakened, especially the northern wall which had been adjacent to the fire-ravaged buildings.

Old buildingThis picture from the 1920s or '30s shows the building as a filling station and tire shop.

For a while, Emanuel Custom Welding owner Roch Emanuel had wooden braces erected to help support that north wall. On the inside of the building, metal braces were installed to reinforce the roof.

Emanuel said the building at the corner of Seventh and Main could have been repaired, but he had trouble finding a contractor willing to do the work.

Knowing that a portion of his building would eventually have to come down, Emanuel moved quickly over the past year to build a new addition. After purchasing three of the four lots destroyed by fire, he built a metal building on the eastern portion of those lots this past fall. Once that building was ready to go, he moved equipment from the damaged southwest portion of the building into the new section, clearing the way for the demolition.

The eastern half of the original blacksmith shop along Seventh Street will remain intact.

After two years of wrangling with insurance companies and an unsound building, Emanuel said it is a huge relief to finally be moving on.

“I feel pretty good just getting this done right now,” he said. “Things are going a lot smoother. We were trying to do too many things at one time between the contractor needing things and moving everything around. It was a lot of extra hours.”

The section being torn down is the western half of a building that has housed a blacksmith/welding business since 1941. In fact, Jens C. Thompsen moved his blacksmith business into the building on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day.

Jens H. “Sonny” Thompsen took over for his dad in 1953 and eventually sold the business an employee, Charlie Vopalensky, in 1978. Vopalensky continued to operate the welding shop until he sold it to one of his employees, Roch Emanuel, in 2007.

Before it became home to the metalworking shop in 1941, the building housed a filling station and tire shop (pictured above). When Thompsen bought the property in 1941, he bricked in the open south and west walls, giving the building the general outward appearance it would have for the rest of its existence.

The original filling station building was built sometime in 1920s. Before that, the wooden frame building that stood on the spot housed many businesses, including a combination furniture and undertaking business, a grocery store and in the 1880s, North Bend’s post office. The building, known as the Farnham Builiding, even hosted basketball games as the home gym of North Bend High School from 1914 to 1919.

As for the future of the site, Emanuel said he hopes to build a new structure on the spot to house the offices and retail side of Emanuel Custom Welding. The new building will be about the same size as the one knocked down last week.

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