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A Moving Experience For Local Developer



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A 2,500-square-foot house took a trip last week. The single-family dwelling was relocated from its original site at 20 Washington Avenue to a lot at the end of Charlie’s Circle.

Michael Burton, owner of the home and of Michael Burton Builders, Inc, is the developer behind The Riverwalk at Sandy Hook Village. The house had been located on an eastern portion of property where a 74-unit rental apartment complex is being constructed on an 11.8-acre site on the western side of Washington Avenue.

To the builder, it did not make sense to demolish the house.

“The house was where the main entrance to the project will be, so it needed to be moved one way or the other,” Burton said this week. “I built that house in 2006. I felt it was worthwhile to try to recycle it, so to speak.”

It took approximately three hours for the house to complete its journey of less than one mile. Planning was key to the success.

“The main challenge was the coordination of all the moving parts of the process — the utilities, permits, the police, tradesmen on the job, and getting all the preliminary work done on Charlie’s Circle,” Burton said July 14.

Among those involved in the move were employees of Michael Burton Builders, who did general construction site work on both locations, and five Connecticut State Police troopers, whose presence Burton said was required by the state DOT permit.

The move was facilitated by Wolfe House & Building Movers, based in Bernville, Penn.

Trees and shrubs were trimmed as the house made its way along Pearl Street. Early Thursday morning, a crew from LRM Inc did some quick landscaping, knocking down brush and weeds on the northern side of Pearl Street. Other employees took care of trimming tree limbs as needed during the move.

LRM employee Ryan Clark mentioned that the move was a “best case scenario,” pointing out that only one set of utility wires were involved in the move.

Spectrum and Eversource crews had lowered those wires, which stretch across the westernmost intersection of Pearl Street, earlier that morning. A temporary protective covering was laid down on the road, over which the dollies carrying the house traversed.

Meanwhile, crews at the Washington Avenue work site began filling in the former foundation as soon as the house had cleared the hole in the ground. That task was completed by Friday morning, the developer confirmed.

Burton said the move went well. It was a very hot day — averaging 85 degrees during the mid-afternoon hours, with high levels of humidity — but it could have been worse.

“It was a little warm,” Burton said. “But it was better than rain.”

Watching The Move

Janet Tilson Knapp was very interested in watching the move last week. The house’s new address is in Tilson Woods, a development created in the late ’90s and early 2000s by her family.

After it started its journey on Washington Avenue/Route 34, the house crossed onto Pearl Street, named for Knapp’s grandmother. It traveled past Tilson Lane, named for the family, and continued to its destination on Charlie’s Circle, named for Knapp’s father.

Knapp caught up with the move as the dwelling was making its slow ascent up Pearl Street on Thursday, passing Tilson Lane and approaching the steepest part of the move.

“It’s interesting,” Knapp said. “It’s amazing that they can do this.”

Knapp was joined by younger daughter Elyse for part of the event. The two had parked at the Charlie’s Circle home of Knapp’s sister-in-law, and then walked to the intersection of that road and Pearl Street to watch the approach.

The house move was slow enough, however, that the younger Knapp had time to drive into town for coffee, return to Charlie’s Circle, and still catch the end of the move. By then, her mother had walked back to her sister-in-law’s house and was also watching the house in its final stretch as it headed toward the cul-de-sac.

Both women were impressed.

“It’s definitely cool,” Elyse Knapp said. “It’s something you don’t see every day.”

Others felt similarly.

Scott and Lisa Allen were driving west on Pearl Street on Thursday, passing Charlie’s Circle shortly after the house navigated the turn onto that street.

Until the dwelling reached that road, through-traffic was impossible. Two of the five troopers assigned to the move were blocking Pearl Street at Charlie’s Circle, keeping others from the moving house.

“It’s really incredible,” Mr Allen said of the house being moved. “It’s pretty cool.”

Among those in vehicles that slowed or even stopped as they passed Charlie’s Circle was Rayon Robertson. A resident of Pearl Street, Robertson said he took a quick drive up the hill when he got home from work that afternoon. He was nearly speechless at what he saw.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said, smiling broadly. “This is really something.”

Earlier, a small crowd gathered at the western end of Pearl Street. Some took advantage of shade provided by a large tree at the corner of Pearl Street and Berkshire Road. Others contended with the day’s heat and sun, just watching to see part of the event.

While it was a few hours for the short move, all the planning paid off. Burton said this week the inside of the house was sitting over its footings at 10 Charlie’s Circle.

“There was no damage at all” to the house, he said July 14. Amazingly, a refrigerator that was inside the building that was not strapped in place never even moved, Burton added.

As one bystander commented last week, “You really want to go slow with these things. It’s not like you can get a C. It’s really more of a pass/fail thing.”

Homeowner and developer Michael Burton takes a photo on his cell phone of a house he moved from 20 Washington Avenue last week to a new location approximately three-quarters of a mile east of its original home. Burton took the photo as the house turned the corner from Pearl Street onto Charlie’s Circle, its ultimate destination. —Bee Photos, Hicks
Onlookers joined members of various crews who were part of the house moving on July 9 to witness the unusual event. The house is seen here as it cleared Washington Avenue onto Pearl Street.
Moving east, slowly, the house approaches Tilson Lane.
An entourage — including vehicles from Wolfe House & Building Movers, on the left and right, and a State Police cruiser — follows closely as the house approaches its new home last Thursday afternoon.
A cooler hung from a hook on one of the I-bars carrying the house provided ice water for those working on the move.
The following morning, workers returned to the new location of the house and were already at work on the foundation.
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