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Historic Daggett house takes a sentimental journey
A historic home built by Captain Seth Daggett in 1801 and owned by Ralph Packer began a sentimental journey this week from Beach Street in Vineyard Haven to a lot at the Tisbury Wharf Company property on Beach Road.
Video footage by Ralph Stewart.
On Monday afternoon, rolling the old house from its foundation onto a truck platform went off without a hitch. The next step, however, involved some tricky maneuvering. In order to avoid Beach Street, the movers had to jockey the house into position to exit onto Water Street through a gap between AAA Island Auto Rentals and the home of Gladys Small. Clusters of curious bystanders who stopped to watch took bets on whether the truck, looking like an awkward tortoise with an oversized shell, would fit through the opening.
Unfortunately, the truck started through at a slight angle instead of straight on, and with no room to spare, the old house got stuck on both sides.
"This is a mess and a half," exclaimed Ms. Small out in front of her home, heading inside to check for damage. Despite the setback, the Hayden crew kept their cool. After appraising the situation, one of the workers took a chainsaw and notched out the piece of wood in back that was hung up. With some careful re-angling and adjustments to straighten the house's path, it was inched forward, brushing against the two buildings like a big kid trying to muscle his way past the smaller ones on the playground.
With no room to spare, the house is squeezed between two buildings on Water Street. Photo by Ralph Stewart
"That was the only way out, and although we measured it many, many times, the house was rubbing on both sides," Mr. Packer said. "But Bob Hayden was able to do it."
He added with a laugh, "They just didn't have enough grease on the two buildings when they went by."
Yesterday, the house was moved onto the beach next to Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway. It will be ferried across by barge to the Packer property during the middle of next week.
Utility workers perform their night moves, temporarily removing overhead wires on the corner of Beach Street extension at Five Corners to make way for the house. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The house-moving project took more than four years to pull off. John Packer, Elizabeth Packer Thompson, and Deborah Packer, the children of Mr. Packer and his wife Dorothy, helped with a yearlong permitting process that started in 2002.
Wanting to avoid summer traffic and winter weather, Mr. Packer said they decided they would move the house only during the months of October, November, March or April. Those months also offer a good range of tides, to lift the barge up higher on the shore to make it easier to load the house onto it.
Mr. Packer hired Nick Willoughby in 2005 for the partial demolition and stabilization of the house. Mr. Willoughby took out the chimney and removed plaster, plumbing, and cast iron bathtubs to help reduce weight for the move. He saved everything, including antique bricks that once made up part of the foundation to use when the house is restored, which Mr. Packer estimates will take about three years.
The Daggett house used to sit on what was the Vineyard Haven waterfront 206 years ago, with its own stretch of beach. Captain Seth Daggett gave the beachfront property in front of his house to the town, which was used to create Water Street, Mr. Packer said.
At the end of its short voyage this week, the Daggett house will have come full circle, once again back on the waterfront, overlooking Vineyard Haven harbor.