Susan Rockwell is bringing her lawn chair and a few snacks to the Battle Green tonight. She won’t be alone. Large crowds are expected to watch the Massachusetts Avenue house make its slow move from its original home in front of St. Brigid’s to its new resting spot at 35 Hancock St.
Tonight's move is happening from 7 p.m. until around 1 a.m.
A last minute glitch almost stopped the process from happening later today, when the house is moved along a circuitous route to its new home less than a half mile away. An abutter, concerned with gas line safety, lobbed a concern Friday that put the move in jeopardy. Town officials, lawyers and the house’s new owner, Patrick Carroll, of Bolton, resolved everything by 6 p.m. last night.
“It was a fair safety issue,” said Carroll, who with Daniel Goguen, bought the house.
The Italianate structure, built in 1850 by Charles K. Tucker, is a fixture in Lexington and one that caused debate for almost two decades.
Empty, old and unloved, the church obtained a demolition order, but never used the wrecking ball. When the order expired historic officials asked that the house be saved. So, it sat there, paint falling away until the white house turned gray with age.
Patrick Carroll saved the day – and the house. But it took two years.
He bought the house and then went to the Lexington Historical Society. Rockwell, on the society’s board, said he officially bought the land at 35 Hancock St. from the Historical Society on Dec. 30, 2010.
The land once housed the Hancock-Clarke Parsonage, which, ironically, was moved across the street. The Historical Society brought it home in 1974 – and that drew a crowd too.
It also left an empty space for Carroll, who spoke Friday about the moving process. The house’s shed was removed last week and the house propped on the steel girders where it rests now.
Unfortunately, Carroll believes the shed, which unlike the main house, contained hand-hewn timbers, was probably the oldest piece of the building.
“It’s hard to tell an excavator to stop,” he said about what he watched happening. "(But), we’re going to put it back together.”
Carroll plans on putting similar additions on the house after it’s settled into its new home. He saved the timbers, some of the old woodwork and other pieces. After doing this five other times, he is familiar with saving old homes.
Carroll’s job is easier because of St. Brigid’s care, he said.
“(The church) preserved the structural integrity,” he said. “Had the roof failed the house would not have been salvageable.”
Carroll sees the gleam of new paint beneath the weathered wood. “If you can see your way through the peeling paint, all the joints are tight, the gutters are wood. The credit goes to the church for keeping the roof intact.”
Carroll grew up in Lincoln, but went to St. Brigid’s, so, he’s always been aware of the house. He’s also loves history and believes in saving these pieces of America – and what he calls “a young country.”
The move, according to the town, is quite elaborate and involves pulling and then pushing it along the route – for the safety of the house and the town’s wiring.
Because large crowds are expected, Lexington police will surround the area.
“Safety is our biggest concern,” Sgt. Chris Barry said. “There is a lot of heavy equipment being used and it’s tough to see people.”
Keeping a safe distance is an absolute necessity, he said.
“(The owners) have many worries, including house, electric, trees and personal injury and to worry about people getting too close is one we don’t want. Please observe any barricades, officers present at the scene and caution tape.”
Street closings will occur before 7 p.m., so Barry advised travelers to choose routes accordingly.
Neighbors should also be aware of service interruptions during the 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. move.