Nick Sarris wanted to save the charming but worn 1899 Victorian he bought two years ago in East Falls Church, a block from the Metro station
He says he has admired it since he was a child, living a few doors away. He even painted it one summer a decade ago while he was in college.
But the two-story frame house sat on three lots at the corner of North Washington Boulevard and North Roosevelt Street in the North Arlington community, and potential buyers prized the land far more than the neighborhood landmark. The land is so valuable that Roosevelt Street is dotted with "piggyback houses," built on lots filled in behind houses.
Sarris, a settlement lawyer, found a solution through Lewis Beardsley, a civil engineer whose lawyer wife, Erica, at one time worked with Sarris. The Beardsleys bought the house from Sarris for $400,000. They hired Ayers Home Movers LLC of Fredericksburg to lift the 95-ton structure, turn it 90 degrees so it faced Washington instead of Roosevelt, and move it to the end lot. Sarris now has two lots to build on or sell.
The lift took two days and was accomplished via trucks with special double transmissions. The 11-room house sat on steel beams with puffy aircraft wheels underneath. Jason Ayers, a third-generation house mover, said his equipment can lift up to 350 tons.
This week Ayers fought the rain to dig out the foundation for a new basement; the company will return in a month, after the basement is done, to pull out the beams and lower the house into place.
"I just wanted to protect the house that a lot of people have grown up around," said Sarris. "It was tempting at times to consider the offers people made to just tear it down, but I thought better of it. I toyed with doing this myself, but I wasn't prepared to undertake it financially."
Beardsley, meanwhile, is almost overcome with excitement over saving the building, with its wraparound porch, widow's walk, 10-foot ceilings, grand staircase, heart-pine floors and stairs, pocket doors, chandeliers, hand-glazed tile fireplace and tongue-and-groove porch ceiling.
He estimates that the costs of moving and renovating Alice Browning's family house on ground that he believes once held Civil War encampments would be less than $100,000, making it "still a good investment." Beardsley and his wife and daughter Zoe plan to move in by spring.
"I'm just thrilled to be able to work on this grand a house," said Beardsley, a structural engineer and house renovator. "It boggled my mind that [potential buyers] could see a house like this as a tear-down."