Hard Labor of Love
May 24, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

And I thought I loved Swan's End.
posted by orange swan at 3:37 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

As of today, I am going to stop complaining (to myself, especially) about all the little things I have to do to keep our 1923 house in working order.
posted by kozad at 3:42 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

"There, it's done" said May Savidge, staring at her cottage which she had spent 23 years rebuilding as her niece, Christine Adams, stood next to her admiring her work.

"That's great Auntie May!" said Christine. "What a labour of love! I'm going to write a book about this!"

"Now hold your horses just one moment!" said May. "You write this book about how I moved my house brick by brick over 23 years, and some people are gonna think I'm crazy! Crazy little old lady May they'll call me!"

"No Auntie May!" said her neice in reply. "They won't! They'll think it's a wonderful story of hope, love and..."

Christine was interrupted as she curiously eyed her Aunt, who had begun pulling a brick out of her newly reconstructed home. "Auntie May? What are you doing?"

"I'm moving it 3 centimetres to the left!" said May. "Gotta move it over.... gotta move it over..." May began rocking back and forth, clutching the brick to her chest with her withered old hands.

"How about we just leave this bit out then, whaddaya say Auntie?"
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:45 PM on May 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

I got frustrated installing some track lighting so I sat down intending to blow off the rest of the project until tomorrow. This was the first thing I read. I'm still going to wait until tomorrow, but I'm going to feel a little lazier doing it.
posted by patrick rhett at 3:47 PM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Metafilter: Reddit has pretty much already exposed this as a hoax.
posted by spock at 4:02 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I should like nothing better than for you to regard us as a new sister and brother. I would like to bring Iris to see you when you feel like it, I know you, too, will love her - everybody does!'"

And with that, I would be delighted to find the inventory of the move turns out to be one brick short.
posted by hal9k at 4:09 PM on May 24, 2009 [6 favorites]

Oh, Snap.

Finally, Reddit is good for something. And I fucking hate Reddit.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:10 PM on May 24, 2009

Cool story. An interesting glimpse into May's life, too, with the story about the fiance that broke off their relationship after 17 years, attributing his faithlessness to a Christian conversion and falling in love with his cousin. May's response to him was particularly evocative.
posted by darkstar at 4:13 PM on May 24, 2009

Reddit has pretty much already exposed this as a hoax.

Whoops, should've trusted by gut instinct, but I posted anyway. Do you happen to have the thread link handy? I can't seem to find it.
posted by spiderskull at 4:13 PM on May 24, 2009

Search for May+Savidge on Reddit = nowt:
http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=May+Savidge+site%3Areddit.com&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a -

can you give us a link, Spock?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:16 PM on May 24, 2009

Hm, here's another article on this, along with a reference to this person.

I don't know.
posted by spiderskull at 4:18 PM on May 24, 2009

I'm pretty skeptical of this. It makes no sense. And why are we only just now hearing of something this massive and long-lived?
posted by DU at 4:23 PM on May 24, 2009

DU- it's a big world out there, people do all kinds of stuff and metafilter is not immediately informed. Especially eccentric old English ladies.
posted by fshgrl at 4:27 PM on May 24, 2009

The book exists and the BBC's Antiques Roadshow featured the story in 2007.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 4:27 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is no link. It is Spock smart-assery. Carry on.
posted by spock at 4:27 PM on May 24, 2009

Wasn't the reddit thing for this post?

At least her planet wasn't later destroyed for an intergalactic super-highway. That would have been a real downer.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:28 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Currently, it seems to be a Bed and Breakfast. Apparently it was featured on a TV show some while back. This was discussed on a forum in 2007, and in the news around the same time.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:37 PM on May 24, 2009

Clearly today is the true-story-that-will-warm-your-heart-oh-wait-is-it-really-true-oh-well-its-till-a-nice-story-day. Must make a note in my diary for next year.
posted by litleozy at 4:39 PM on May 24, 2009

Ha ha. Silly old lady wasted her whole life moving a house.

*goes back to watching TV*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:49 PM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

DU- it's a big world out there, people do all kinds of stuff and metafilter is not immediately informed.

"We" the public, not "we" MetaFilter. She's moving a house brick by brick from an area built up enough to have a road coming through and not a single neighbor called a paper about the eccentric old dear who's trying to move her house, can you imagine?
posted by DU at 5:10 PM on May 24, 2009

Well, my impression is that due to familiarity a lot of the people who decide to pursue overwhelming undertakings on their property are initially ignored as eccentric neighborhood kooks by the locals, not so much found newsworthy. It's usually done by someone who keeps to themselves somewhat, too... their visions are driven by private emotions more than in search of public attention. Seems like it's often not until after the creator finishes/dies and the property changes hands that people pay attention to what was left behind.

Case in point, the guy who built the Watts Towers ended up walking away from them because his neighbors hated him and he hated them. They were busy trying to vandalize the property more than anything, so he walked away one day and never returned. It got more publicity after he left it behind.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:41 PM on May 24, 2009

wow, What a poignant and, er, moving story. Its tragic-romantic aspects remind me of the man who made amazing Coral Castle.

Extraordinary this woman, May, put such passion and dedication into her goal. I admire her a lot for that and am so glad her niece took on the task of restoring the house fully. Nice ending.

Thanks for the post spiderskull.
posted by nickyskye at 5:59 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nice... this is what I come to metafilter for...
posted by HuronBob at 6:16 PM on May 24, 2009

DU- people move old houses all the time, it's not newsworthy. And living in a half empty shell because you are broke while you finish the rest of the house might be omgweird! in a wealthy US suburb but its not exactly uncommon in the rest of the world.

The historic house I live in was jacked up, moved slightly and rebuilt by a guy who lived in a tent in the garden for a couple years. And it's right in the middle of town. The mystery is not how the public wasn't informed but how he spent 3 years doing such a terrible job of renovating a place this small.
posted by fshgrl at 6:27 PM on May 24, 2009

Oh great, now I'm "wealthy US suburb"anite.
posted by DU at 6:43 PM on May 24, 2009

I neither know nor care if you're a wealthy US suburbanite, but I *do* think you didn't RTFA.

As stated, "Dismantling the heavy oak timber frame, held together with tapered wooden pegs, was both difficult and dangerous. A team of local demolition contractors helped May." So people were not unaware, in fact they were actively helping her.
posted by librarylis at 8:45 PM on May 24, 2009

That's amazing. I'm half-reminded of a story I only half-remember, about an historical temple that was scheduled to be moved, and was painstakingly disassembled and each piece labeled, with it's unique identifier. Someone lost the notebook explaining what was what, so now there's acres and acres of neatly stacked and filed stones with labels on them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:36 PM on May 24, 2009

All that to have somebody add a fugly extention to the side of it! Shit!
posted by Thoth at 10:39 PM on May 24, 2009

I'm really lost as to why DU is putting up such a fight about this. I'm well-acquainted with the moving of historic structures by comparison with most people and so I consider it, if not normal, at least within the bounds of things that can reasonably happen, and do.

* My Dad's job running a historical society involved moving the oldest structure in town to a protected historic site. Somewhere nearby my desk there is a photograph of my Dad, looking a lot like my brother did 30 years later, pointing for the newspaper photographer as the building is adjusted into position.
* Later, when I was a teenager, the same society moved a schoolhouse associated with famed suffragette and temperance campaigner Frances Willard to the county fairgrounds. During this process I helped demolish some of the inappropriate modern improvements to the point where I coughed up black mucus.
* My dad also helped get at least one structure from around here into Old World Wisconsin, a park of historical buildings, almost all moved piece by piece and reconstructed.
* My family's own house both had a wing moved from one side to the other sometime before WWII and was -- for a time -- being carefully rehabbed by my parents. This involved labeling and storing in the basement anything from the 19th century that was dismantled. Unfortunately, some of that dismantling was never ... mantled. My dad is now in a home for dementia patients, and my mother never wanted the house in the first place now that she can be honest (what marriage does to people, huh). But it means that for virtually my entire life I have experience with a single building being slowly deconstructed and reconstructed.
* I have to reconstruct the wall for the original carriage barn for this same house, which was on a different property when I was growing up but which my parents now own. The materials don't really cost all that much but there is no way this structure is worth the labor of contracting it out, so I'm doing it. Slowly.
* On the other side of the block is a 19th century church and (later) perfume factory that is being turned into something by the owner, who has heart disease, so it's taking him a Very. Long. Time.
* I conversely know dozens of historic houses that have been rehabbed in much shorter time periods because the owners have money.
* I pretty much every week drive past a building site where a McMansion is being constructed to take advantage of a river lot; the previous structure, a ranch of hardly any note, was jacked up onto a truck last year and taken somewhere to be a lakeside cottage by the owners.

To my experience, then, this sort of thing happens all the time. About the only thing that's unusual is that it's a woman alone; the type that does this is usually men, less often married men. Even my dad was not allowed to move his family into this house until he gave my mom a modern kitchen.

Thoth: I have nothing against the extension. The precepts of historic preservation and adaptive reuse allow a building that does not have intrinsic architectural or historical value to "live" and continue to be purposeful, even if that includes remodeling. I think it's kind of cute and bed-and-breakfasty, myself.
posted by dhartung at 10:50 PM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

"There, it's done" said May Savidge Parker, staring at her cottage which she had spent 23 years rebuilding as her niece, Christine Adams nephew, Peter Parker, stood next to her admiring her work.

"That's great Auntie May!" said Christine Peter.
At which point Doc Ock swept through the entire structure with one mechanical arm, collapsing it.
posted by dhartung at 10:57 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh great, now I'm "wealthy US suburb"anite.

With a stick that big up your arse, I guess you type standing up.
posted by rodgerd at 12:01 AM on May 25, 2009

the moving of historic structures ...

A very common practice throughout New England. For example, here in Massachusetts, Old Sturbridge Village has "more than 40 original buildings, each carefully researched, restored, and brought to the museum site from towns throughout New England. These include homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, law office, printing office, carding mill, sawmill, gristmill, pottery, blacksmith shop, shoe shop, and cooper shop."
posted by ericb at 8:50 AM on May 25, 2009

The best of the web? A single link to the Mail on Sunday? Jeez.
posted by ComfySofa at 1:37 PM on May 25, 2009

Well, I thought it was an interesting story, Mr No Posts.
posted by the cuban at 3:22 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Moving houses is not common in the UK, especially not historic ones (it takes them out of context). Although it does happen occasionally, see Spon Street in Coventry, or the Weald and Downland, Black Country or Beamish museums (and more). Nowadays we'd probably build the road around the house, if it was deemed to be historically significant.

This really does demonstrate how our attitudes in the UK to historic buildings have changed from the 1950s. Since they rebuilt Euston Station, the conservation movement was galvanised, and everyone finally got their heads round the idea that new isn't always better (see St Pancras Station for an example of what we do now...).
posted by Helga-woo at 3:40 PM on May 25, 2009

I'm not saying it's not an interesting story, Mr 14 Posts. But it's a single link to one of Britain's crappiest (but best-selling and hardly obscure) newspapers. Seems like it'd be more at home on Fark.
posted by ComfySofa at 3:27 AM on May 26, 2009

I'm not saying it's not an interesting story, Mr 14 Posts. But it's a single link to one of Britain's crappiest (but best-selling and hardly obscure) newspapers. Seems like it'd be more at home on Fark.

Yeah, I know the Mail isn't the most reputable source. But my brief research into the topic beforehand proved that it was at least legitimate, and the story itself is fascinating enough to transcend the juvenile writing style and questionable shilling of the book.
posted by spiderskull at 1:06 PM on May 26, 2009

Apologies. I was bitching about your post because I loathe and detest the Mail and all its nasty little hate-filled, shit-stirring opinions. I got all narky because I inadvertently increased their figures by one visit, and made myself feel dirty.
posted by ComfySofa at 2:18 PM on May 26, 2009

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