Friday, December 16, 2011

Changing Places; How the Kittredge House Was Moved

1895 Bromley Atlas (Before the move)
Many of the old buildings HBI encounters are not sitting in their original locations.  The Eustis Street Fire House sits where it was originally built, but the earlier, 1829 “Torrent Six” that preceded it was sold in 1859 to W.B. May for $128 and moved to nearby Pike Street, where it was used as a residence (Pike Street and the original “Torrent Six” no longer exist).

1899 Bromley Atlas (After the move)
The Alvah Kittredge House in Fort Hill, Roxbury, was also moved from its original location in the 1890s, roughly 50 years after it was built.  It was moved from Highland Street around the corner to Linwood Street, a very short distance, and reoriented 90 degrees.   At this time, the several wings attached to the left of the house were removed, and quite possibly and re-used elsewhere, but this information is lost to history.

Though moving building is rare today, it was fairly common in the 19th century.  The materials, and craftsmanship invested in buildings were valued more in earlier generations than today, and moving buildings made good economic sense.   Moving buildings today requires factoring in traffic, road restrictions, plumbing connections, and power lines, which were not considerations in the past.  Unless a building has architectural or historical significance, it is unlikely to be relocated since the cost to move often exceeds the cost to demolish and build anew.

Moving a modest sized house in the 1800s seems straightforward, but moving even part of the Alvah Kittredge House seems an awesome task. Excluding the cellar, the main body of the house that was moved is over 5,000 square feet. The distance was quite close in the case of the Alvah Kittredge House (the new site was on the same property), so maybe it was feasible to move it in one piece?  Houses were sometimes disassembled, the pieces labeled, then reassembled at the new location.    More likely, it seems a house of this size might have been divided into 2 to 4 sections, then set onto the new foundation and reconnected to its other parts.  Screwjacks were used to lift a house from its original foundation, and then it was probably rolled - pulled by oxen – to the new site.  How long did the move take from start to finish?  What was the season?   Apparently snow and ice sometimes facilitated a move, allowing the building to be slid rather than rolled (see ). Was the interior of house significantly remodeled after the move to adjust for the loss of the wings? 

As we move forward with our exploration of the house and our plans for the next stage of its existence, perhaps we’ll find some clues that answer some of these questions.

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