An old house finds a new home

By Betsy Bean

Tom Allen has an interesting fact about his house: it tips the scales at 300,000 pounds

Allen learned all about the weight, shape, and condition of his home when he moved it from Ga. 78 and Hardaman Road, where it stood for more than 150 years, to his rural 30-acre site in Oglethorpe County.

The house, known to many as the old Hardaman house, had been sitting vacant and deteriorating for several years after investors bought the land for future new development. They were willing to give the house to anyone who would move it but, while many inquired, no one had followed through with a serious proposal.

Tom Allen, a private pilot, and his wife, Beth, had long wanted to have an “old homeplace” in the country. They found the land but no house until at the property closing, when the realtor mentioned the old house and the owners’ desire to give it to anyone who would move it.

“When we saw it, we wanted it right away, ” he recalls. “We’re big porch fanatics. The rooms and hallway were big. It was dry and the floors were level. As the mover said, ‘it has good bones.'”

According to a previous owner, the house was built as a two-over-two in the 1850s but remodeled in 1908 by the Hardaman family into a four-over-four. Kitchen and bathroom additions had also been made to the core structure over the years.

It took two months to track down the owners and get a call back, but with Allen’s persistence, the agreement was signed early last spring that simply required the site be left clean. After getting five costly quotes on moving the house 26 miles to his site, Allen chose the sixth one by James Casey and his company, People’s Choice Home Movers in Canon, Ga.

Casey proposed two cuts to the house instead of four as the other companies suggested, and saved thousands of dollars. Nevertheless, it cost $50,000 to move the house and another $50,000 for carpentry, foundation, and other work – the crane alone cost $20,000.

The only surprise in the whole undertaking was the discovery of five roofs, which were removed when the second floor was cut off and moved to ground level. While some of the plaster was lost in the move, much survived with just some easily repaired cracks. The later, poorly constructed additions were torn off but the porch and its 17 columns were saved and reattached with a new roof. Most of the 22 windows are intact, and Allen himself is restoring those, and replacing the lost ones with matching reproductions. All of the fireplace and chimney bricks were saved and will be used to enclose the new cinderblock piers. The beadboard ceilings, floors, woodwork, and pocket doors are all yellow heart pine.

From start to finish, the whole endeavor took about nine months, including the dismantling of additions, cutting the house in half, the construction of a new foundation, the move, a new roof and new kitchens and baths, and all new plumbing and electricity.

The Allens moved into the the now 5,000-square-foot house in late February. While a lot of finishing touches remain undone at move-in, the couple is thrilled with the “new” old house. “We love the feel,” Allen says. And the cost was half of what a builder wanted to charge to build a copy with lesser materials.