A century-old house on Chapel Street moved 20 feet Friday morning, inch by painstaking inch.
The old house is on the move to make way for a new mixed-use building at the corner of Chapel and Howe. The house is to be renovated and made into the new home of a Yale secret society.
The 1890s house has to move about 60 feet west and two feet down. Moving west is easy, said Joe DeNicholas, whose New York-based company is in charge of the shift. It’s the moving down that’s hard, because it requires DeNicholas and his crew to build a road, using wooden “cribbing,” for the house to roll on.
DeNicholas explained how the process works. First, his crew put holes in the house’s foundation and slid huge metal I-beams underneath. Then it jacked up the house and placed it on piles.
On Friday, the crew began moving the house by placing it on huge dollies.
The dollies roll on the cribbing “road” as they are pulled by winches on two trucks.
The work stops periodically so that workers can pull up the road behind the dollies and build it up in front.
It’s a slow process, if you watch closely, you can see the wheels moving.
“Like watching grass grow,” said DeNicholas, pictured.
Once the building is in place, it will be placed on piles and a foundation will be poured beneath it. Finally, the house will be lowered into place, having completed its 60-foot voyage.
This is something that the developer Randy Salvatore should be given some recognition for doing. In the original design the house was slated for demolition. Area residents expressed their desire that the house not be torn down. To show good faith, Salvatore promised to preserve the house. He spent a great deal of time working to purchase the vacant, blighted lot next door to the proposed development, which was coincidentally next to this house, and finally paid a hefty price to purchase it and is following through on what he promised. I am not aware that this promise was ever put in writing as part of any development agreement, but Randy Salvatore promised he would be true to his word, and he was. This cooperation between Salvatore and the neighborhood residents accomplished BOTH preserving a historic structure as well as determining the fate of a vacant, blighted lot that could otherwise have hung as empty space for years. I am thankful both to the people who pressed the issue of this house and to Salvatore for responding as he did.
As the homeowners (Pilar Stewart and Corinne Blackmer) who own the house of an analogous period and style next to this house, we are gratified that it has been preserved. While we are not thrilled to have a five-story building in our backyard, this is arguably far better than a naked—and dangerous—parking lot.