Howard house hits snag in its journey


You'd have thought a cyclone whirled through in the middle of the night.

As the sun came up in Howard County yesterday, nothing but a pile of dirt and rubble remained at the Clarksville corner where a three-story, peaked-roof Victorian had stood for more than 130 years.

And two miles west, that same house -- intact, but looking somewhat shaky -- sat across a hedgerow in an empty field. It was perched atop a makeshift truck bed while workers fretted over how soon they could finish hauling the structure to its new location.

It was a bizarre and somewhat disappointing interlude in the effort by Clarksville residents Denise and Glenn Bowman to move the historic house they'd purchased for $1 to a lot three miles down the road.

"It's frustrating, but we're trying to have a good attitude," Denise Bowman said yesterday afternoon, a few hours after the truck hauling her house broke an axle, stalling the process. "We're trying to go along with the flow."

By the time things started moving again at about 4 p.m., it had been nearly 14 hours since workers from Expert House Movers began creeping down Route 32 with their 160-ton payload.

The whole process was supposed to have taken one night, but the time it took to fix the broken axle delayed things enough so that the movers decided to park the house on a neighbor's lawn as night fell. They plan to finish hauling it the last quarter-mile or so today.

It all provided plenty of entertainment for the quiet, rural community where neighbors -- some of whom had agreed to have the house cross their property -- gawked and took pictures yesterday afternoon as they kept a close eye on their children and dogs.

"It's a little different, that's for sure," said Becky Yoshitani, as she stood with her three children while workers prepared to haul their load across her backyard, around the side of her house and down her front lawn.

The Bowmans had spent months preparing to have their dream home, which had been slated for demolition, moved to a place where it could be renovated and revived.

The house started as property of the prominent Clark and Dorsey families in the mid-1800s and went through several owners until the 1960s, when it was turned into offices. More recently, it was to have been knocked down to make room for an auto sales lot. Local preservationists had scrambled to find someone who would agree to move and renovate it.

The Bowmans expect to pay up to $120,000 for the move, and that's just the start. They also plan to renovate the house, which has wood floors, curved attic windows and transoms over the bedroom doors, but needs electricity, central heat and air, improved plumbing and serious cosmetic work inside and out.

Still, said Glenn Bowman, "it's the house that we've been looking for a long time [with] all that natural light."

This week's adventure began with a rousing sendoff shortly after midnight yesterday, as more than 70 people gathered in the cold at Route 108, the house's starting point. The house had been hoisted off its foundation and onto a grid of steel beams without incident on Friday.

Denise Bowman, who organizes events for the Iron Bridge Wine Company, set up a heated tent with food and hot drinks for family, friends, neighbors and onlookers.

At about 12:30 a.m., the couple broke a bottle of champagne over one of the beams supporting the 4,200-square-foot house and watched with excitement as the structure eased forward a few feet at a time, stopping frequently for the moving crew to adjust the wheels for the turn onto Route 32.

As the house rolled gently away, lit by a string of spotlights against the inky black sky, Denise Bowman looked up in awe and said, "My God, look at that thing!"

Glenn Bowman's mother, Clara Moffitt, of Columbia, clapped her hands in excitement as the house began its journey.

"It's wonderful for him to have that kind of bravery and a partner who is as brave as he is," she said.

In preparation for the trip, which required the cooperation of authorities ranging from the utility company to the State Highway Administration, police closed a section of Route 32 until 6 a.m. Things went smoothly until shortly before sunrise, when the truck, after leaving the road and heading across a field, broke an axle.

"I heard a snap and saw the front wheel shift," Denise Bowman said.

At that point, the crew decided to take a break and return later in the day with the replacement parts. It was late afternoon before the repairs were made and the move could resume, for a bit at least.

The Bowmans, who look forward to seeing their house in its new location as early as today, were philosophical about the delays. "When we started, we were told, `You're going to spend twice your budget and take twice the time," said Denise Bowman. "It's not stopping us. We're still going to make it through."

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