Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Riley Lodge: Our Story - York Shaw, House Movers Extraordinaire

On April 13th, York Shaw started excavating - digging the basement out from beneath the house, lifting it up onto jacks, and inserting the large H-beams both lengthwise and crosswise through the house that would help keep it stable during the move.

The insomniac  was never able to get any pictures of the basement - that's how lousy the camera was (couldn't possibly have had anything to do with the photographer). It never did well in low lighting, and it was always VERY dark in the basement - few of the lights down there still functioned. But one does remember the makeshift stage for bands set up in the turret corner with the words “Welcome Space Travellers” spray painted behind it, the large stone fireplace where some told us Dr. McLaughlin, the abortionist who lived there for a time, disposed of the poor little bodies, and the words Min Manor painted on every available surface. Unfortunately, the exact message of that graffiti has been lost over the years as it was never written down - under the mistaken assumption one wouldn't forget what it said. And not that it matters, as we could never figure out the reasoning behind the name anyway. Still, if anyone out there can enlighten us as to what Min Manor really meant, it would certainly help at least one of us sleep better at night.

All one remembers for certain was that the basement gave everyone who ventured down there The Creeps. The insomniac  herself would never set foot in it unless her 6'4" spouse was there, and even he and his equally large friends said the hair on the back of their necks stood up whenever they descended the stairs. The basement was divided into many small rooms and there were far too many hiding places for unknown things to lurk, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on some unsuspecting person while they fumbled around in the utter blackness, trying to locate that solitary working light switch. Thankfully, whatever it was that was down there stayed behind at the old site, and just last night when the insomniac  was in the basement packing up the Attic stock, she wasn't the least bit nervous. Right up until she started thinking  about that old basement ... not long afterwards, she decided to call it a night.

In a Min Manor they ... ?

And they ... ?

We saved those stairs for the new basement.
Never painted them; just kept them as they were.
For old time's sake ...

City Council had approved the ward alderman's recommendation that before a building relocation permit would be issued, we were required to hire a licensed, bonded and insured contractor to perform site preparation, excavation and footing work at the new location. Council had also approved the alderman's request that water, gas and electrical services to the new site be installed prior to the move, so the city would be covered for their costs in the event we decided to back out at the last minute.

Kent Construction was engaged and the necessary contracts immediately couriered to the city; the relocation permit to be released the following day so York Shaw could continue with their preparations. The next morning, the insomniac  contacted the Planning Department and was told the permit had gone missing. Late that afternoon, we were advised the ward alderman had taken the plans and the permit would not be released until he had given his comments - which we were again promised by 9:00 a.m. the next day.

By 9:00 a.m. the next morning, the permit still hadn't been released. The insomniac, the type of person who would prefer jumping off a cliff to engaging in any sort of confrontation, had finally had enough and phoned the Mayor's office to complain about the ward alderman's continued interference. We got a verbal go-ahead from the Planning Department at noon, and the permit was finally issued at 3:30 p.m.

During these weeks of preparation, many people came by to reminisce about Riley Lodge. A fellow by the name of “Dickie” said his dad had helped with the construction of the house. He remembered the 10-foot stove in the kitchen, and we were sad that particular stove hadn't been left behind instead of all the other dysfunctional ones. Another older lady said she remembered Mrs. Riley sewing in the dormer window - perhaps an explanation as to why the insomniac  was inclined to use that window for her sewing as well.

Once the house was up on the beams and jacks, the insomniac  got vertigo walking through the house, and kept her interior visits to a minimum until after the move.

Tied together with two-by-fours and steel cable ...

The Shaw brothers were quite worried about the back portion of the house where the wooden cold pantry had been removed. It was braced up as much as possible and, despite their fears, made it through the move just fine. York Shaw really were that good.

It didn't look particularly stable, did it?

Didn't lose one single brick.
Except maybe those three on the beam ...

Although the house needed moving out to the road which was slightly downhill from the site, the beams it was going to be rolled along were laid at a slight upward incline. This eliminated the possibility of the house gaining enough momentum as the truck pulled it towards the street that they might lose control of it. A very large runaway brick house. A frightening thought - even more frightening than being in the basement.

Bill Shaw doing complicated survey stuff ...

More complicated stuff ...

Getting into position to roll the house off the foundation
and onto the road ...

Pipes to keep it rolling smoothly up the incline ...

Coming over the stone wall at the south of the property ...

Oh look, we forgot one last fridge in the basement.

And a ping pong table ...

From the insomniac's  notes that week:

April 18th - Big snowfall last night. Roof leaking badly.

April 21st - Moved the house off its foundation and 30 feet to the south of the property.

April 22nd - Made the front page of the Herald today.

And that was the very last note she ever made - probably because we got pretty busy soon after.

Click to enlarge.

Sitting alone in the middle of the street that evening,
waiting for her big move the next day.

Remember, quite vividly, neither of us sleeping very well at all that night ...

Next morning, the truck is hitched to the house ...

Moving tree limbs out of the way - a bit of
unplanned-for pruning ...

The crowds gather. It was an exciting day.

Especially for those who didn't have their
entire life's savings riding on those beams ...

Unhitching the truck, then driving it around
the corner without the house attached ...

This next picture perfectly illustrates the exact moment when the insomniac  wanted to say to the Shaw brothers, “Wait. I've changed my mind. This doesn't look like a good idea at all. Could you just take it back to the old site, please?” But she didn't.

It looks as though it's going to slide off, doesn't it?

And although they never said as much, pretty sure the
Shaw brothers were a little worried at this point, too.

Reattaching the hitch to the house ...

Spraying Wetter Water under the tires to make the road greasy,
so the house would sli-i-ide around the corner ...

Safely around the first corner ... only one more to go.

The Final Destination

On Bill's handwritten notes he gave us after the move:

  • Total weight when being moved - 120 tons
  • Weight of house - 87 tons
  • Weight of steel beams and moving dollies - 33 tons
  • 2 main beams - 20" x 20" H-beams at 185# per foot
  • 12 cross beams - 12" x 12" H-beams at 65# per foot
  • Moving dollies made up of 56 wheels
  • Towing vehicle - Kenneth Crane Truck with 104 forward speeds (required for “creeper type” movement)
  • Dimensions when loaded, including truck - 40' wide x 100' long x 40' high
  • Moving Crew - 12 men
  • Electric Light Crew - 8 men
  • Telephone Crew - 6 men
  • Cable TV Crew - 4 men
  • Street Lighting Crew - 4 men

  • Planning and preparation for move - 10 days
  • Move and lowering onto foundation - 15 days
  • Total of over 25 workings day to prepare for and move the house

  • Cost of the move York Shaw - $36,000
  • Cost for line removal charges - $2,695.59

    Next - six months in the original  Crappy Little Trailer ... history certainly does repeat itself, doesn't it?



    1. Houses aren't built with basements here -- at least, no house that I've ever come across. After years of seeing nothing but creepy basements on US/Canadian TV and movies, I think your basement would have well and truly freaked me out.

      The pictures of the house being moved are extraordinary! Husband and son were called in to have a look. Much oohing and aahing ensued. I don't think my son knew it was even possible to move a house. ;D

      1. You're smart not to have basements, Little Gothic Horrors - having everything above ground is much more sensible! That's probably why I was so terrified to go down there - I've seen all those horror movies, too. We had the option to build a crawlspace underneath the new house, and yet we chose to go with another basement. But it will be VERY well lit. ;o)

        Looking back, it was pretty amazing and we were very lucky it all ended well. Say hi to the husband and son, and please tell them how much I loved Beware of the Thing! I watched it while I was alone last night in the Gothic Mansion - I was terrified! Bwahahaha. :D

    2. I agree with L.G.H. - these pictures are amazing! But I still don't understand - how is it possible to move a brick house without getting cracks through the foundation and walls everywhere?

      1. Thanks, Ms. Misantropia!

        I can't really answer your question with much accuracy, unfortunately. The Shaw brothers would start to explain all the complicated engineering details and my eyes would start glazing over. I think it had something to do with the fact the house isn't solid brick (which doesn't move very well at all), but is a brick veneer over a wooden frame, which is a little more flexible and less likely to crack. I think that was it, anyway. ;o)

    3. What a fascinating story. Part 2 you mentioned your two mysterious lodgers; the one under the veranda and the ghost woman. I thought it was very kind of you to leave a note for the veranda person instead of just chucking out all their things. I hope their circumstances improved. Might I inquire; what was the tv crew there for?


      1. Thanks, Ali! (SoPoshChocs? I can't keep up!) :o)

        Well, we've always tried to be kind people. For the most part, anyway. ;o)

        All twenty-two of the linemen were there during the move in case any of the overhead electrical, telephone or cable TV lines had to be dropped to the street to allow the house to pass. The streetlight crew were there for the same reason. Thankfully, nothing had to be dropped because then our bill probably would have tripled! LOL

    4. This is just an amazing undertaking and most houses that I've seen moved I've often wondered, " why?" . Your home though is architecturally beautiful and who wouldn't love a home with a turret?! Is that a weather vane on top or a lightening rod? I can't imagine the work invovled but the end results have to be stunning.

      1. I'm sure most of the neighbours were also wondering 'why', Mark! And I guess the reason we felt so strongly the house needed saving was because the Riley family were a very important part of Calgary's history, and this was their last remaining house - all the rest had been torn down. We sort of felt like it was our destiny to save it. Weird, eh?

        And I think that's why the new house needed to have a turret - and dormer windows. Because I can't imagine living in a house without those features anymore. Well, at least until they shuffle me off to the Old Folk's Home. Maybe the offspring can find one with a turret ... Pay attention, children. Mom wants to go into a lodge with a turret.

        It's a weather vane - and it makes the most delicious groaning noise in the wind. I'll miss that sucker. ;o)

    5. Wow! What a job! Kudos to the Shaw Brothers for having the skill and expertise to do it.

      1. I don't think this was their biggest job either, Debra. I'm pretty sure I remember they'd also moved a locomotive and a grain elevator, too! :O

    6. Oh Insomniac, these photos gave me the shakes even though this all happened what, 20 years ago? Astounding. What ever happened to the river rock wall?

      1. I know, Mayfair Mistress - especially the one where it looks like it's going to slide off. That corner really was scary - I was positive we weren't going to have a house left! Twenty-six years, as of October this year. Wow, where did the time go? ;o)

        We really wanted to dismantle the rock wall and move it too, but we couldn't afford to use any of our budgeted money for it; there were just so many other more important things that needed doing. We always said we would build another one at the new site, but again, the budget never allowed. Had to settle for a cedar fence - half an acre is a lot of rock wall, and I think by that time I wanted wallpaper more. ;o)

    7. I am so enjoying your house move saga! :) What an incredible undertaking for everyone involved!

      1. Thank you, Bane! It's sort of nice to relive all these memories just before we leave. :o)

    8. Talk about expertise! If anything, moving the Gothic Mansion was an epic undertaking--and it took lots of determination on both your parts to make it happen!

      1. Epic ...yes, Nightwind - I guess it was! Thank you for saying so. :o)

    9. Exciting! :)
      I would never go down a basement with many hiding places, as you said... who knows what might lurk there... *chills* xD

      1. Do you think maybe we've watched far too many horror movies, Sandra? LOL

    10. This is SO fascinating!!! And with pictures, yet, AND notes from the workmen!! Better than all the crappy "reality" TV shows that I'm refusing to watch. I'm glued to my screen waiting for the next installment, I don't want to wait...

      1. Thank you, Lucretia! I know - I'm crazy for saving all this stuff, right? I've got every letter ever written concerning this house.

        Ugh, I can't stand reality shows. Except maybe Duck Dynasty. I have a soft spot for those guys... must be the beards. ;o)

        Hopefully next installment by Friday! :o)

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