Note: This story was originally posted Nov. 19 then held for revisions and reposted Nov. 27.
By Connie Leinbach
It was moving day on Ocracoke. House-moving day, that is.
Earlier this year, Aaron and Rebecca Gallaher were given a historic home along Creek Road and have moved it to a lot they own on First Avenue.
“There were a lot of logistics to this,” Aaron explained as the house was paused in front of Blackbeard’s Lodge on Back Road while Tideland EMC crews raised up two of the many overhead electric and cable lines across streets the house traveled.
After disconnecting the older portion of the house with help from Rebecca’s father Bill Steimer, the move began early Nov. 19 after Bray’s House Moving of Camden took a day to raise it up in preparation for its journey.
Before that, Aaron and a team of five others had to prepare the way along the streets by trimming tree limbs so that the house had at least a 22-foot clearance along the streets.
More logistics included organizing the electric and cable companies and sheriff’s deputies to be on hand during the move, and getting all the permits.
The entire middle school visited the house the day before the move to see the preparation, look at the historical features, planned recycling and to have the science of the move explained by veteran mover Julian Bray, owner of the company.
The early-morning Ocracoke Coffee Company crowd was out by the street, along with some of the Ocracoke School classes, as the house rounded the curve on Back Road.
A cheer rose up as the house came into view in front of the Coffee Shop corner.
“It’s like a parade,” said Jude Wheeler.
The trickiest part was making the turn at Back Road and Sunset Drive, Aaron said, but that happened without a hitch. Then, backing the house onto the lot, which only took several minutes of maneuvering.
“Stage one complete,” Rebecca said as the truck was turned off shortly after 10 a.m.
The next step was raising the house 12 feet before it is lowered on Dec. 8 (weather permitting) to its final height of 8 to 9 feet off the ground, said Julian Bray, owner of the moving company. Two days after the move, the pilings on which the house will stand arrived.
Almost three years ago, the Gallahers heard about this house owned by Keith McDermott.
“We heard he wanted to give the house to a local family who would live in it year round and not rent it out,” Rebecca explained in an interview.
While the Gallahers were not first in line for this gift, they kept in touch with McDermott. In February, they heard from McDermott that they could have the house and began making preparations for the move.
The house had two parts, Aaron explained. The portion of the house that was moved is a newer part built in the 1920s while the oldest part, built around the turn of the 20th century, was not moved since it has sustained irreparable damage over the years. Extensive old termite damage, structural issues and rot forced the Gallahers to make this difficult decision just two weeks ago. All plans had included moving both buildings, and now they plan to replicate the old kitchen in their new home and use all the salvageable materials they can to pay homage to it.
“We moved a shell,” Rebecca said. “A beautiful shell.”
All electric, insulation and HVAC will need to be redone. Following building plans drawn up by islander Garick Kalna of The Kalna Group, the Gallahers will take next nine months to renovate and build the addition.
Also following in the tradition of Ocracoke Islanders, they will recycle as much from the older portion of the house as possible, such as the original bead board in the kitchen, original beams, which they will reuse in several spots and the steep old stairs that they will rebuild into a bookshelf. All original flooring will be resurfaced and reused, as well as all bead board from both parts of the house.
“We have piles of recycling organized at the Creek Road site,” Rebecca said.
They also will build a new addition to replicate the older portion not able to make the move.
When it is all complete by September, the house will have three bedrooms and two and a half baths, up from the two bedrooms and one bath of the original, Aaron said.
“My job is to build it; her job is to decorate and paint it,” Aaron said.
Aaron, who is a bartender at Howard’s Pub during the season, works in construction in the off season and has done construction work of all kinds since he was 15. He will spend the winter working fulltime on the house. Rebecca is the middle school language arts teacher at Ocracoke School.
This wasn’t the most difficult house-moving job his company has done, Bray said.
“It went good,” he said as the crew took a break awaiting the arrival of the equipment to raise the house up. “The neighbor was outstanding and (Belhaven Cable) and Tideland did a nice job.” Bray had to back the house over the yard of a house owned by Dick Tunnell of Swan Quarter.
“Dick was very kind in letting us go over his lot,” Aaron said, noting that he had to cut down 2 trees, which the Gallahers will replace, prior to the move.
Bray, standing with Carl O’Neal, who will do the foundation work and the addition, said the last buildings he recalled moving on Ocracoke were two in the mid-1990s for Wayne Clark, who owns Edwards of Ocracoke.
The Gallaher’s house is 900 square-feet, Bray said, but recently his company moved a 4,000 square-foot house in Corolla. That took five working days; the Gallaher’s house took three days.
Bray said his company mostly raises houses up off the ground, most recently raising a home on Lighthouse Road across from the church for a historic renovation.
The Gallahers are excited about this adventure.
“We just like old houses and saving old houses,” Rebecca said. “We feel very lucky to have this house.”
Categories: Ocracoke's history & its people