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Posts Tagged ‘how to move a house’

Moving House: Williamsburg Style

November 22nd, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

Like thousands of good little schoolchildren before me, our elementary school class trekked off to see Colonial Williamsburg sometime in the 1960s. Little did I know that parts of this “Colonial” site were a mere 30 years old at the time.

Despite being a native of this area, it wasn’t until 2007 that I learned that part of Colonial Williamsburg was re-created in the early 1930s through the beneficence and foresight of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Hubby and I were touring Colonial Williamsburg when I pointed out that there’d been some restoration work done on these buildings in the 1920s or 30s. He looked at my quizzically and said, “You know that many of these buildings are re-creations done in the early 30s, right?”

Oops.

Seven years later, while researching Penniman, DuPont’s 37th munitions plant on the York River, I discovered that the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) had several aerial photos of Williamsburg from the late 1920s and 1930s. David Spriggs and I drove to the library Tuesday morning to get a better look at these photos.

And it was a fascinating field trip.

Marianne, the Vital Resources Editorial Librarian, was every researcher’s dream. She was not only knowledgeable and well-versed, but eager to help us solve a few mysteries.

In looking at these old aerial photos, it was my hope to find a few of the 17 houses that were moved to Williamsburg from Penniman in October 1921 by W. A. Bozarth (according to the Virginia Gazette).  I did find nine Penniman houses in the photo.

Sadly, judging from these vintage photos, many early 20th Century houses and eight of our relocated Penniman houses went bye-bye during the Colonial Williamsburg restoration. (Kind of pitiable really. The little Penniman houses survived the “leave no board behind” government salvage at Penniman, and then died a tragic death just 10 years later.)

Finding those Penniman houses was fun, but there was hidden treasure I discovered in that photo that was even more fun!

Scroll on down.

To learn more about John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation), click here

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Shiawassee History

This undated aerial view of Williamsburg was probably from the early 1930s. Those familiar with Williamsburg will recognize "The Triangle" where Richmond and Jamestown Roads merge at Duke Of Gloucester Street. These photos were taken by the Army Corps of Engineers and the detail is stunning. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

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House

When I first saw this house, I told my husband, "Why, it looks like that house is sitting in the middle of the street!" And then I realized, that the house IS sitting in the middle of S. England Street! The photographer managed to catch a picture of Williamsburg on a day when a house was being moved. With all the development of Colonial Williamsburg, I'm grateful to know that a few houses were moved rather than destroyed, and this image offers photographic proof! Most likely, the house is being moved backwards, and headed south on S. England Street. The absence of power lines and overhead wires made it a lot easier to move houses. In fact, in the early 1900s, moving houses was a surprisingly common practice. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

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house house

And if you look real close, you'll see what appears to be a pair of tracks behind the house. From what I can glean, S. England street was a paved street at the time of this photo. Those rails would have been used to move the house. They were laid behind the house (where it's advancing) and then as the house moved, the sections were taken up from the front and moved to the rear. Remember, the house is being moved backwards. Moving a house back in the day was a very slow process. Often, houses couldn't be moved from old site to new site in a single day, so at the end of the day, the workers went home and left the house sitting in the middle of the street. Given that I see no workers present, I suspect that's what is going on here. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

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Shiawassee

One of the finest examples of early 20th Century moving that I've ever come across is this picture from the Shiawassee History website. See link below. If you look at the image above, you'll see rails laid down in front of the house. At the website (below), there's a thorough explanation of how this move was accomplished, but in short, the horse walked in a circle around that capstan which was anchored to a tree or some solid object. The winding of the rope around the capstan acted like a winch, pulling the house forward on those rails, SLOWLY.

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For a real life example of how this capstan works, click here to see it in use.

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In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that

In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that Mr. Bozarth had moved 17 houses out of Penniman and into Williamsburg. Better yet, they were "desirable houses"! I wonder how many "undesirable houses" he moved?

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Just this morning, I was talking to a curator at a local museum who told me, “I heard that some houses were moved by barge from York County to Norfolk, but I told the person making the inquiry that they didn’t move houses in the early 1900s, and that it was just a myth. Just too difficult for a variety of reasons.”

Alas!

In fact, it was much MORE common in the early 1900s than it is today. The absence of overhead power lines made it even better, plus this country had a different mindset about wasting precious resources.

To read about the houses that came by barge to Norfolk, click here.

Click here to visit the *fabulous* Shiawassee History website, and learn more about the how and why of moving houses in the early 1900s.

The site also offers a splendiferous explanation of how (and why) so many houses were moved, rather than destroyed (as they are today).

For all our 21st Century noise about recycling, we’re way too eager to send old houses to the landfill. The house shown probably represents 250,000+ pounds of irreplaceable building materials.

To learn more about the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library in Williamsburg, click here.

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Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House? (Part IV)

August 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

I’m saddened to report that the demolition of the Pop Culture House at Bowling Green State University is apparently going forward.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

This, despite a truly valiant effort on the part of BGSU staff and faculty and friends to save this house.

This, despite the presentation of a petition with more than 2,100 signatures to BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey.

The “powers that be” at BGSU apparently prefer that students learn about their history via pricey textbooks and pretty pictures, rather than “hands on.” Given a chance to preserve a piece of true Americana, the college has opted to destroy this “one-of-a-kind” kit house and send hundreds of thousands of pounds of debris to the landfill. (To read about what makes the Pop Culture house truly unique, click here.)

In “The Slate Roof Bible,” author Joseph Jenkins reports that 28% of the volume of debris at landfills is construction and demolition debris.

I’m of the opinion that BGSU should immediately suspend any and all classes related to environmental sciences. They’ve just sent a message - to their community and their students and their staff - declaring boldly that recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.

How many pounds of recycled materials does BGSU collect each year and turn over to a recycling center? How many years of recycling bottles and cans will it take to offset the 300,000+ pounds of house they’re sending to the landfills today?

If a person paid attention to behaviors (which are better indices than fancy words), the take-away message from BGSU is, “Recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.”

To say that I’m sickened and disgusted by this whole affair would be a gross understatement.

Given the tremendous urgency with which this building has been rushed to demolition, you’d think that the Pop Culture House harbored smallpox, diphtheria, spanish flu, anthrax, polio and the bubonic plague.

It does not.

The biggest sin committed by the Pop Culture House is that it stood in the way of a proposed college expansion. The house had the misfortune of being built on a piece of land that would one day be owned by a college that lacks vision, and also lacks respect for this uniquely American piece of cultural and architectural history.

At the very least, the house should have been moved to another site.

Preliminary estimates placed the cost of moving the house at about $18,000. The cost to demolish the structure is probably not far from the cost to move it.

At the very, very least, the lumber in the house should be salvaged. The quality of building materials (lumber) used in this 1931-built home are the likes of which we will never again see in this country. To read more about that, click here.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

It’s a sad day for BGSU.

Very sad indeed.

To read more about this house that will soon be nothing but an empty lot, click on the links below.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

How to Move a House.

To read an excellent blog that talks more about the ecological importance of preserving this house, click here.

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The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012).

The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward, but was based on a kit home design offered only by Sears Roebuck. The Sears House was the Lewiston.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

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As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows.

As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows. What I do know is it is very sad and a great loss for the community. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another

The picture of the home's side shows the windows being removed. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening.

Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Those asbestos flakes must be pretty smart if they know that they have to stay behind the red tape.

That asbestos must be one smart mineral if it knows that it has to stay behind the red tape. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the homes buyer, builder and first owner.

A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the home's buyer, builder and first owner.

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A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

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Virgils Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware.

Virgil's Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

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A view of Virgils very own front door - from Wards.

A view of Virgil's very own front door - from Wards. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward.

Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward. This reads, "From Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, IA." Orders for Montgomery Ward's homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine in Davenport, Iowa. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family.  (Muncie, IN)

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family. (Muncie, IN)

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To read about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio (safely out of the reach of BGSU), click here.

To contact BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey, send her an email:  mmazey@bgsu.edu

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Move it! Don’t Lose it! (Fourth Update on the Pop Culture House at BGSU)

August 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

You might be surprised to learn how often kit homes are moved from their original site to a new location.

Judging by the frequency with which these homes are picked up and moved, re-locating a kit home must be,

1) A do-able (albeit complicated) process

2) Financially feasible

3) Historically sensible

4) Environmentally brilliant.

The Sears Lewiston (which is actually a custom-built Wardway design) at BGSU is threatened with demolition. It currently houses the Pop Culture program at the college. Lovingly known as “The Popc House,” this structurally sound building may soon be reduced to a 300,000+ pound pile of rubble on August 7th, unless the college (Bowling Green State University) reverses its decision.

The Lewiston’s major crime is being in the way of a proposed college expansion. If you want to read more about the house and its history, please click here (Part I), here (Part II) and here (Part III).

Not only can kit homes be moved, but they should be moved.

The quality of lumber seen in these homes is something not easily described. In fact, I devoted an entire blog to this topic. In short, the lumber for these early 20th Century kit homes was milled from first-growth trees in virgin forests. We’ll never seen lumber of this quality again. Period.

Some preliminary research suggests that the Popc House at BGSU can be moved off campus and to another site for less than $20,000. What are the proposed costs to demolish this house? Probably not terribly far away from that $20,000 mark.

It’s time for the college to make a commitment to its own history, to its alumni, to the community, and last but not least, to the environment, and SAVE the Popc House.

The landfills of America already have enough old houses.

Don’t add one more.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos. The Lynnhaven and the BGSU house are probably similar in size and girth.

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Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

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This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, Virginia at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

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Shadow

The Shadowlawn measures 28' wide and 30' feet deep, not including the substantial porch.

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A Sears kit home (The Gordon) was relocated in Florida (forgot which city) in 2002. The story made the headlines in the local paper.

In 2002, a Sears kit home ("The Gordon") was threatened with demolition. After an uproar from the local citizens, the house was relocated to a new site. The story made the headlines in the regional papers.

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Though not kit homes, more than 50 of these bungalows were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And - this is even better - they were moved in the late 1910s.

Though not "kit homes," more than 50 of these houses (shown here) were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And they were moved in the late 1910s. Let's see: If you can move 50 houses 40 miles 90 years ago, I suspect you could move one house a couple miles today.

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OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, three of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, several of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

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Of the houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk (Virginia), one of them was this

The Penniman/Norfolk houses are shown here, being floated into Norfolk.

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The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving.

The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving. This historically significant home should not be sent to a premature grave.

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To learn more about the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio click here.

To sign a petition to save this house, click here.

If you’d like to send an email to BGSU president (Dr. Mazey), here’s her address: mmazey@bgsu.edu

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Have You Seen This House? (Part 5)

May 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows that were originally built at another location, and then moved here (by barge) sometime after The Great War ended in 1918. For years, that’s pretty much all that was known about them.

Last month, we learned that 3,000 miles away in Dupont, Washington, there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory there.  Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington, I now have a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in 1909.

And now there’s a new wrinkle.

Indefatigable researcher Mark Hardin has found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” (our pet name for these little houses) in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington and Butte, Montana.

We know that Dupont often turned to Aladdin kit homes to provide them with houses for their workers. We know that Dupont used Aladdin to provide housing at their sites in Carney’s Point, NJ, Old Hickory, TN, and Hopewell, VA. According to local lore, Dupont also used Aladdin to provide houses for their workers at their guncotton factory in Penniman, Virginia.

It’s looking more and more likely that our “Ethels” came that guncotton factory in Penniman, Virginia (now the site of Cheatem Annex, a military installation). Dupont built hundreds of houses for the workers, and purportedly, some of those houses were moved after The Great War. This fits nicely with the story of the our Ethels in Norfolk.

Norfolk historian David Spriggs did some digging and found that the Norfolk lots which are now home to our “Ethels” were purchased by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922, and with a little more digging, he found that George P. Hudson was was listed in the 1925 city directory as “President of Hudson Transportation Co. and New Home Corporation.”  The business of Hudson Transportation Company was listed as, “Lighters and Barges.”

As David says, who would be in a better position to move 16 houses from Penniman to Norfolk than a man who owned a company called, “Hudson Transportation Co. and New Home Corporation”?

And who says history isn’t fun?  :)

And yet, many unanswered questions remain.

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

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One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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