Seeing a house moving down the street is always a spectacle. You just don’t see that every day. And you might even think that it’s only made possible by new technology and heavy equipment. But houses have been moving from place to place for quite some time as evidenced by this 1908 photo of a fairly grand Victorian house making its way along a hilly San Francisco street.
Moving a house using draught horses. San Francisco, 1908 pic.twitter.com/4RnfSCHYZk
— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics) December 10, 2013
In 1939, photographer Dorothea Lange caught this image of a house on the move in Cottage Grove, OR.
Why don’t we move more houses? The short answer is trees and power lines. As our cities have grown more dense and trees have matured, it has become difficult to find a clear route down which to move a large structure. And the cost of trimming trees, disconnecting power lines and traffic signals, and dodging overpasses can be enormous, not to mention a logistical nightmare involving multiple city agencies.
In 2014, Restore Oregon board member Roy Fox and his wife Kim saved the 1890 Edwin Rayworth House by moving it to a new location.
“We could never have imagined what it takes to get a house moved,” Roy told The Oregonian. “The physical part of the move is almost not the issue.”
You can read more about their experience in our newsroom article: Saving the Rayworth House: A Preservation Saga.
Just last week in Albany, a local firefighter took on the challenge of moving a 1939 house that he purchased from the City for $501. The house was cut in half and moved in two pieces. Albany residents were delighted to see the house being re-used instead of heading for the landfill. The Democrat Herald covered the story and the accompanying slideshow illustrates the move.
While we have long had the power to move historic houses out of the way of demolition, our modern world has created many obstacles. So, the sight of a house rolling down the street is likely to remain a rare occurrence and could become even rarer as the built environment becomes more dense.