Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Moving Houses

Scott Baldinger offered a brilliant suggestion for redeveloping the Second Ward after Bliss Towers is demolished: moving houses that are now awkwardly sited because of development that has happened around them into the void that will left when Bliss Towers is gone. Baldinger included a picture of a house he considered a possibility--a house I couldn't place. I have my own favorite candidate: the house that sits at the point where Columbia Turnpike forks off to the left as you approach Hudson on Route 23B. For all the years I've lived here, it's been boarded up, and it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to live there with cars and trucks approaching it pretty much head-on day and night.

The classic children's book The Little House, written by Virginia Lee Burton and published in 1942, is about moving a house--a little house that starts out "built at the top of a small hill, far out in the country," is over time surrounded by development, and finally, after ending up sandwiched between two skyscrapers, is moved to another hill, far out in the country. 

Houses used to be moved in Hudson. The yellow house on Allen Street across from St. Mary's Academy originally stood on Union Street and was moved to its current location when City Hall Place was created. The house designed by J. A. Wood, where Catholic Charities is located on East Allen Street, originally stood at the corner of East Allen and East Court streets and was moved when St. Mary's Church was built in the 1929.    

Today, we don't move houses in Hudson, we demolish them, and often houses are not demolished because they are dilapidated beyond repair, but simply because they are in the way. A perfectly sound Arts & Crafts bungalow on Columbia Street was demolished when the parking garage at Columbia Memorial Hospital was built. The City demolished two or three houses on Seventh Street to create a parking lot at the Central Firehouse, and CMH demolished a very old house associated with Martin Van Buren to expand a parking lot. Within the past year, another Arts & Crafts bungalow, this one on Prospect Street, was demolished so that the owner of an adjacent house would have a place to park his cars, and a week or so ago, a house on Robinson Street was demolished so that the owner of the house next door could have a bigger garden.

When I lived in San Antonio at the end of the 1980s, my favorite restaurant was in the Fairmount Hotel. The Fairmount was built in 1906, but in 1984, it was in the way of new development: the Rivercenter Mall and the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel. Instead of being demolished, the hotel was moved in 1986 to a new location several blocks away. The Fairmount is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest structure ever to be moved on wheels.

Growing up in the Midwest, I witnessed houses being moved on more than one occasion, but moving houses doesn't seem to be done much anymore. It can't be that people no longer possess the knowledge and ability to move a house. The Fairmount Hotel is evidence that people still knew how to do it in the latter part of the 20th century. Can moving an existing house be that much different from loading a prefab house onto a truck and hauling it someplace on the Thruway?

If you're intrigued by the idea of moving a house, here are some fascinating videos.   

1 comment:

  1. What are the economics of moving and rehabbing houses? Is it less expensive than new construction, or rehabbing houses in situ?

    My mother-in-law's 19c farmhouse in Maine was moved from one side of her road to the spot where it happily sits today.