Donna Reiner, a local historian and a good friend of Get Your PHX, has written many articles over the years for the Arizona Republic and others about what came before us. We use her services when we list properties of historic significance to help us tell the stories behind the homes.
We are happy that Donna is allowing us to re-publish some of her articles on a monthly basis. If you or your business ever needs a historian, let Donna know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I became intrigued by the idea of moving a house from one spot to another when I learned that my childhood house had been moved three blocks by my great-grandfather. Apparently it was quite common to move houses based on newspaper ads and the number of movers listed in city directories. Still, I wondered how it was done; but it was only a few years ago that I actually had the opportunity to witness one moved.
Most often houses are moved because the owners value the land more than the old building. Occasionally you can find a house for “free” provided you can move it. Of course, that requires money, and an empty lot neither of which make the moving process any easier.
The most recent Phoenix house moving was the Wurth House which only traveled from the north side of Roosevelt and Third Street to the south side. But the house was saved. The move was not real dramatic, but was still difficult. Perhaps you saw it propped up as the foundation was being reconstructed. When restored, the Wurth House will once again become a valued property of Roosevelt Row.
Significant moved houses in Phoenix include the Smurthwaite House transported from 7th Street and Fillmore to Jefferson and 14th Avenue in 1994 where it now serves as the offices for the Pioneer Cemetery. The city also moved the Burgess Carriage in the mid 1970s from 130 E. Taylor to Heritage Square where it is now the ticket office and gift shop for the Rosson House. In 1985, the city moved the Frank Thomas House to the expanding Heritage Square. You may know this as Bar Bianco.
But I found it most enlightening watching the Edward Morin House move from 1115 N. 2nd Street to 621 N. 5th Avenue in 2007. Imagine, a two-story brick house weighing 170,000 pounds lumbering along on a flat-bed truck in the middle of the night. People tagged along on the street and sidewalks gawking as APS crews lifted power lines. The journey was carefully plotted to include the wider streets so the truck could more easily turn. But maneuvering the house onto the lot on 5th Avenue while backing in was truly a work of art. Some of you may know how tricky it can be to back a trailer into a slot and get it exactly right. We recommend you see the house and try to picture its move, the last to cross Central Avenue before the completion of light rail.