The 200-year-old house of a former Delaware governor arrived in Washington yesterday morning four months late and in two parts.
Fitting together the gray, two-story wood plank building that arrived on two flatbed trucks was a family affair.
The movers -- Golly Patterson of Felton, Del., his wife Frances, sons Jamie and Bobby, son-in-law Robert Hewitt and brother-in-law Skeeter Baczkowski -- darted in, out and under the two hunks of house, securing them for the strain of reconstruction in the parking lot of the National Building Museum at Fourth and F streets NW.
First, the Pattersons slid the first floor off the truck and onto the foundation.
A giant crane, donated by Crane Service Co. for the day, loomed over the second floor, which was waiting to be plucked from the truck. The Patterson crew tied the crane's cables onto two steel beams that had been imbedded into the inside of the second story for the move.
Operator Vernon Asher pulled his gear shifts, lifting the roof and second story off the flatbed. Frances Patterson drove the truck away, and the second story swayed gently in the wind.
Golly Patterson stood on the stairs inside the first floor of the house. Asher moved the second floor into position and lowered it, inch by inch. As it came down, less and less of Patterson was visible. Finally, only his arms could be seen as he held onto a beam above his head and guided the second story down toward the first. Finally, the top of the house slid on, with its vertical timbers and spike holes perfectly aligned with the level below.
After the three-hour operation, the museum staff burst into applause that expressed not only joy, but also relief.
"I just can't believe it's here," said Karen Montgomery, the museum's public programs coordinator.
The two floors of the house had been separated by removing several six-inch, hand-forged spikes that had held the floors together since Colonial times.
The house was built in Delaware in the 1770s by John Cook, a farmer who governed the First State in 1782. It was inhabited until 1982. Since then it has been severely vandalized, and last year it was donated to the museum for preservation. The National Preservation Institute will use the Cook house as a laboratory for classes on restoration techniques, Montgomery said.
The house's arrival had been planned for January but encountered several delays. The house had been in a Delaware cornfield, accessible only by dirt road. On the first attempt to move it, "The crane stuck, stuck, stuck in the mud," Montgomery said. A tow truck was hired, but its drive shaft broke during the haul. Another weekend, Frances Patterson went into a hospital with pneumonia, then her daughter, Darlene Patterson Hewitt, had the family's first grandchild.
Finally everyone was ready to roll on Friday for the 98-mile trip from Smyrna, Del., but the delays did not end.
The movers stopped in Maryland Friday night, and on Saturday a Maryland state trooper declared three tires on one of the trucks faulty. Patterson returned to Dover, got new tires and put them on the truck.
"I move them all the time," said Golly Patterson. "But this is the longest I've ever hauled."