Picking Up and Moving (the House)
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Anne Marie Gingher and her husband, Anthony Frederick, were preparing to fix up their tiny bungalow in Baltimore County when they fell in love with an old house slated for demolition.
"Wouldn't it be nice if we could move that house and attach it to ours?" said Frederick, a local musician.
The stained-glass windows they admired on previous trips past the 1908 foursquare had already been removed, but after getting permission to explore inside, they found original mahogany woodwork, most of which had never been painted, in pristine condition. The high ceilings, pocket doors, transom windows, beveled glass, oak floors, cast-iron bathroom fixtures and original slate roof were all in character with their own house, built in 1913. Clapboard siding was hidden under asbestos shingles.
Gingher spent the next two years researching how to move a house. "I didn't have a clue," she said, laughing at the naivete of the first question she asked: "Can I just have it unplugged and plug it back in?"
She talked to architects, engineers, land surveyors, utility workers and county zoning officials. She met the Gry family, who lived next door to the house she wanted to move.
The house, built by the Grys' relatives almost a century ago, had been vacant for years.
Vivian Gry's stories of family gatherings infused the property with a personality. Gingher was hooked.
Sizing Up the Benefits
At first it seems that emotion and a preservation streak, not financial practicality, motivate house moves. Although Gingher bought the 63-ton house for a pittance -- $5,000 -- the cost to jack it up and move it the quarter-mile to her lot was about $35,000.
Building a new foundation and dealing with permits, overhead utilities and insurance added $100,000. Still to come are the costs of attaching the two houses, remodeling, bringing plumbing and electrical systems up to code, and then landscaping.
In all, the project will cost more than $300,000. However, Gingher and Frederick will quadruple the size of their 950-square-foot home and gain architectural features that are hard to duplicate today.
Houses are moved for many reasons, including subdividing a land parcel or getting out of the way of development.
And sometimes the house doesn't have to be moved far -- sometimes it just needs to be raised a bit because it's in a flood plain or because the owners need more headroom in the basement.