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Crews prepare historic home for relocation (w/video)

By Melissa Crowe
Jan. 8, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.

James Brandon, 24, of Victoria, carries debris and old furniture from inside the Zahn House in Victoria.

TIMELINE

• 1841: Elmira A. Beaty purchases lot from the corporation of the town of Victoria for $197.

• 1845: Elmira Beaty and Archibald D. Beaty deed the lot for $130 to James Lansing.

• 1846: James Lansing deeds the property to B.F. Owens, who later sells the property that year at auction to David Mumphree of DeWitt County for $20.

• 1852: David Mumphree deeds it to J.F. Kilgore, of DeWitt County, for $60.

• 1859: The house sells at auction to J.N. Ragland and Thos. Collier for $208.

• 1860: The property sells to Herman and Alvina Zahn for $125. The deed of trust shows the Zahns borrowed $500 from Henry Franz.

• 1861: The Zahns' oldest child, Max, is born in the house.

• 1948: The Zahn family keeps the house for 88 years, then a descendant deeds the house and property to Pam Berry for $1,000.

• 1955: Pam Berry Smith wills the property to a grandson, William Grady Lindsey Jr., and her daughter, Odie Lindsey Grissom.

• 1961: The property is deeded to George and Mary Filley.

• 2007: Mary Filley wills the property to her son, Michael Filley.

• 2012: Michael Filley deeds the property to Linda Hankins.

• May 28, 2013: House is tagged because of security and safety concerns

• June 5, 2013: The demolition permit is requested, triggering a the 60-day “demolition delay for historic structures” ordinance

• July 16, 2013: Historians and downtowners, with less than a month on the moratorium, plea with the Victoria City Council to save the home.

• Oct. 15, 2013: Victoria City Council offers a temporary site for the house.

Source: Victoria Preservation Inc.

The preservation of Victoria's oldest historic home is falling on the shoulders of an uncommon candidate - a local plumber with a knack for restoration.

Ben Caraway, owner of Caraway Plumbing, plans to take possession of the 153-year-old Zahn House once Victoria Preservation Inc., a nonprofit organization, relocates it to his property.

A dump-trailer parked outside the home sat piled high Wednesday with busted swivel chairs, closets of vintage clothing and the memories of yesteryear.

Crews began work Tuesday, emptying the innards of the pre-Civil War era house of the years of collections that remained as passers-by scavenged for antique treasures.

Caraway said the home could take as few as four years to complete. His home, which is next door to where the Zahn House will be moved, took 15 years, he said.

"As soon as I get it over to my house, I'll start on it immediately," he said. "We're going to paint it and put a new roof on it first thing and worry about the inside later."

The home will be a private guest house finished in a classic style, Caraway said.

Dereck Talkington is heading up the move by Clegg Services, a Victoria moving company. He plans to keep an old grease gun found inside the house as a memento of this job.

"I've got several historic homes I've worked on," Talkington, 49, of Nursery, said. "This will be one of the oldest we've ever moved."

He does not foresee any major obstacles. The pier and beam house is still straight, and although some boards are decaying, rot is not a major issue.

Crews will take off the top 5 feet of the house and detach the rear addition board by board before the move, saving and recycling as much of the material as possible.

"It's still got a lot of heart left in it," Talkington said. "I think it'll stand up another 100 years."

Jeff Wright, executive director for Victoria Preservation Inc., has overseen the house and was part of the initial efforts to save it since it came up for demolition in June.

He estimates the house will be relocated within the next six weeks from the corner of Santa Rosa and DeLeon streets to a private lot at 310 S. Wheeler St., about three blocks southeast.

Once moved, the ownership can be transferred to Caraway from Victoria Preservation Inc. and the home can be pieced back together, restored and reentered in the National Register of Historic Places.

Wright called it "the best situation we could find."

He said he is eager to see what Caraway does with the house.

"It's good for us, it's good for the house, and it's good for the city," he said.

Mayor Paul Polasek said he is happy the project is a private effort.

Previously, the group trying to save the home suggested the city should incorporate the house into a welcome center on Main Street.

"I don't think restoring homes is a primary function of government," Polasek said. "I think it's OK to participate at some level, as we have."

The city gave Victoria Preservation Inc. a matching grant of $12,000 to move the structure and had agreed to let the house sit temporarily on a public lot.

"I'm happy they have a location for it, so they don't have to rush the process," Polasek said. "They can take their time and do it right."

Wright envisions the Zahn house going on the Old Victoria Driving Tour and maybe one day going on the Annual Historic Homes Tour.

Wright is unsure whether the preservation group will help with financing the restoration but said he would help the new owner apply for grants, including a new program through the city. That grant is helping fund a portion of the relocation.

"We've spent a lot of time on this house, and we want to follow through on it to do what we can to make it a success for the future," Wright said.

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