To an entranced audience a few summers ago at a cocktail party, one of the guests described how he planned to lift his 2.5 story home from its foundation and float it across the harbor to a new site. Disconnecting a structure from its foundation is simple enough, we all said, but placing it on a barge and floating it on water to a new location seemed like something out of the television show “Modern Marvels.”
While floating homes across the water is extremely complicated, homeowners on Shelter Island have been picking up houses and moving them all over the island for centuries. Lora Lomuscio of the Shelter Island Historical Society said that before the industrial age, lumber to build a new home was not always accessible and it was often easier and more economical to move a structure to a new site. Several properties currently on the market for sale have had resourceful owners who have successfully moved structures:
7 Baldwin Road, named the “Beebe House,” after its first owners, was originally located at 90 South Ferry Road, “south of Mashomack Slave Quarters,” according to its history. In the early 1900s it had also been owned by “The Borax King,” Frank Smith, as part of his vast estate near South Ferry. The date the house was moved is unknown (presumably back in those days, a building permit was not required). One of its prior owners, according to the Shelter Island Reporter in 1975, was “one of Shelter Island’s most notable native sons,” Admiral Harold E. Shear, who served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s second highest office, and who earned the Silver Star in World War II.
At 45 Burns Road, Joseph and Josephine Margiotta, who purchased the property in 1947, made extensive renovations to turn the 1885 farmhouse into “The Harbor Inn” and converted the barn into a two story guest house. When the Margiottas’ grandfather moved to Shelter Island, they purchased a cottage, named “the schoolhouse” built by Homer Griffing and located across the road. Using island ingenuity, they felled two locust trees, set the cottage atop the trimmed logs and rolled it across the street to its present site. Much of the Margiottas’ renovation has been preserved, with added amenities by its current owners, who have used the schoolhouse and barn as creative writing studios.
The Griffing family name is also connected with another cottage that was moved. Located originally on Thomas Street, this 1925 cottage was slated to be torn down in 2004. John Sieni had a vacant one acre lot at 8 North Midway Road he was planning to build on, but, being a native son of Shelter Island himself with an appreciation of history, he trucked the little cottage three blocks, placed it on a new foundation with 10 foot ceilings and renovated it throughout, where it sits today, awaiting its new owner.
At 1 Winthrop Road, the “Zehner House,” was built in 1890 on 1.75 acres, an L-shaped waterfront lot on Dering Harbor. As suited practical purposes of the day, it was sited close to the road for optimal accessibility. In 1987, its owners who are accomplished sailors moved the home to a new foundation overlooking their 174-foot deep water dock. Moving the massive 80’ x 30’ original two story house, undertaken by Davis Brothers house movers, was such news at the time, it was featured in the Shelter Island Reporter. “All the dishes are still in the breakfront, all the pictures are still on the walls,” the owner was quoted in the article. Placed on “cribs”, the house was pulled by a four man crew using winches over six days. “You could live in the house and not even know it was moving,” Curt Davis of Davis Brothers, said at the time.
When customers say: “this house in a different location would be perfect,” the answer is: “you too can move your dream house as many before you also have done!”
Shifting from the movement of homes to movement of people, this Saturday, the 38th Annual Shelter Island 10k/5k Run/Walk will be bringing over 10,000 people to the island, benefiting the East End Hospice, Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch and the Shelter Island Run Community Fund. We are proud to sponsor this exciting event. Be an everyday hero, run for a charity, run for a cause where everyone is a winner!