Talk about a big moving day. While River Forest residents Kimothy and Corine Lee moved only a few feet north, what their house move lacked in distance, it more than made up for in bulk?#34;112 tons of bulk. On Tuesday morning, April 12, the Lee's moved their 2-story stone and frame house from 807 Forest to 811 Forest Ave.
The Lees have actually lived at the 811 Forest address since August, 1995, but in what Corine Lee describes as a one-story frame cottage that was slowly "falling down on its own." It was at a neighborhood tea party a couple of years ago that the Lee's learned that their neighbors, the Gees, were planning to demolish their 2-story stone and frame house and build a more expansive structure on their corner lot. The Lees really liked the Gee's house, which had been significantly renovated over the past decade.
When the Gees told them, "If you can find a way to move it, it's yours," the Lees bought the house?#34;but not the land?#34;and set about researching how one goes about actually moving a house.
Corine Lee said she and her husband were relatively calm about the process, having actually seen the moving of a massive, 4-story stone building downtown.
"So it was possible, I knew that," said Lee.
What was rather difficult, Lee said, was all the planning before hand.
"It was a lot of planning and gathering info," she said with a bit of understatement. Every time she and her husband thought they'd done all they needed to do, there was another person to contact.
"It was like, now you've got to contact [another] person," said Lee.
One of the key people the Lees contacted last spring was local contractor Tim Kelly. They'd heard of Kelly's handling of the so-called "Hemingway house" move in October, 1999 from its original site just north of the old main library building to its current location at Elmwood and Chicago avenues. That move was much more complicated than the Lee house move, traveling over one and a half miles, east down Lake Street, north on Ridgeland, and back west on Chicago Avenue.
In order to expedite the process, Kelly gave the Lees his list of subcontractors, and they chose the same firm?#34;Dillabaugh, Inc.?#34;that Kelly had retained for the Hemingway move, to jack up and move their house.
While Kelly had done his first house move five years ago, Dillabaugh has been doing house moves?#34;as well as bridges and other structures?#34;since at least 1875.
"We started out moving farmhouses," said Dan Dillabaugh, Jr.?#34;in America, that is.
"I've heard they did it in the old country [Germany]," said Dillabaugh, though he's been unable to comfirm that anecdote.
Dillabaugh acknowledges that having one's home disconnected from its foundation and set on steel rails to be transported somewhere else, even just next door, can be nerve-wracking for the average person.
"It can be a pretty traumatic idea for some homeowners," he said. "We go out of our way to make it less stressful."
Dillabaugh can actually say he knows how they feel, though.
"We [moved] my own house. So I can empathize with people," he said.
Prior to the house being lifted on powerful hydraulic jacks, Kelly had to oversee the disconnection of all utility pipes and wires from the house, and the cutting of the house from its foundation. Steel beams, weighing as much as 4,000 pounds (96 pounds per linear foot) were then rolled under the house. Two huge I-beams weighing 5,000 pounds were then placed under the house and across the new house's foundation to act as rails.
After all that preparation, it took just over three hours to move the house to its new lot, though there was a glitch or two. The day of the move saw steadily increasing rain, which slowed the process, as the hydraulic dollies couldn't gain traction.
"It took a little bit longer because the skate beams didn't allow traction," said Kelly. Along those beams ran four small truck chassis, on which the house rested.
Kelly called his home-moving experience "something of a niche." If so, it looks to be a growing niche for him. Last week he trekked to Elmhurst to discuss another possible house-move with a client
Before that happens, however, Kelly has a good deal of work left to supervise on the Lee's house. The house now rests above its new foundation (the newly moved house has a brand new 9-foot-deep basement) awaiting weeks of more mundane work before the Lees can move in. A load of lumber was delivered to the site over the weekend, and Kelly has been busy coordinating the different tradespeople who will soon be descending on the site, as well as arranging to reconnect all the utilities to the house.
"We'll have carpenters and steel workers and masons," said Kelly, who estimates the work will take another eight weeks to complete.