Moving Houses

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.


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.”


Rayworth House move-courtesy Roy Fox

Trees were carefully trimmed and power lines moved to accommodate the height of the Edwin Rayworth House.

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.

Power lines being moved at the approach of one half of a 1939 house in Albany, OR.


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.

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4 Responses to Moving Houses

  1. Christi April 25, 2016 at 11:58 pm #

    How could a person find out how to save a house to be demolished in their area? We would love to save a part of history instead of build new on our property.. it seems ironic to build a barn to looked patina. We have thought about asking people who have caved in barns if they’d be interested into selling and we could deconstruct. This site is excellent and should be in every town. I’m from Cottage Grove and loved the picture. Thank you.
    We have property between Lapine and Sunriver.

    • Denise Bartelt April 26, 2016 at 9:18 am #

      That’s an excellent question. I can see if any of our advisers know of anything. Are you looking for a barn specifically?

      BTW, you are close (closer than we are) to one of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places, Fort Rock. Have you visited?

  2. Tommy smith March 8, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Wonderfull…… Wish it happened more often….. What’s the latest on concord school in milwaukie?

    • Denise Bartelt March 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      We don’t have any updates on Concord at the moment, but we will try to update that information on the endangered places page for the school as soon as we have something to share.

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