19th century home moved, renovations plannedPublished 8:31pm Wednesday, November 6, 2013
ORRVILLE — A 19th century house took to the streets Wednesday.
The Molette House — built in 1825 — was formerly located south of Orrville, on the edge of the Alabama River. On Wednesday, Eleanor and David Chetham moved the house several miles to avoid compromising the structural integrity of the house.
If the house had stayed in its current location, the family would have needed to lift it several feet to comply with FEMA regulations.
“We found out about FEMA restrictions and would have had to move it up so high,” Eleanor Cheatham said. “We were worried raising the house would compromise its structure.”
The house may be the oldest structure in Dallas County, perhaps even older than it is officially listed. Eleanor said William Molette, the original owner of the house, moved to Alabama in 1817, before Alabama was a state. Family lore has it the house was built the same year, but the American Historical Buildings Survey officially lists 1825.
The Cheathams received the house for free, if they promised to move it. The owner planned to demolish the house and recycle the wood, Eleanor said.
“We have always loved old houses and have always dreamed of restoring an old house,” she said. “When we found out that the new owner was planning on tearing down the house to reuse the lumber, we wrote him. He very generously offered to give us the house.”
Wednesday’s move marked the second time the house has been moved. The first came soon after the Cheathams wrote a letter to the previous owner.
Moving a house isn’t easy, Jeff Hussey, of Hussey Brothers Construction said. The house weighed more than 80 tons.
“You have to be careful about making sure it stays intact when you move it,” he said. “This house is right up there with most of the projects we have done.”
As the house inched its way down Dallas County Road 33, electric crews disconnected power lines to prevent the house from striking the lines.
Once the house reached its new home, construction crews carefully lowered the house to the ground.
With the move complete, renovation and restoration can begin, Eleanor said.
“We want to preserve the original house, add back its front porch and add on so that we have bathrooms and a kitchen,” she said.