Moving Turner House will be delicate process

Chimney and addition must be deconstructed by hand before historic Abbotsford home is moved

Moving a 140-year-old heritage house is a delicate process.

The former home of George Turner is slated to be trucked from its current site on a rise above Matsqui Prairie to a new home at Clayburn Park, and the city is now hiring the companies that will undertake the task.

But a newly released request for proposals details the delicacy of the task ahead.

To start with, there’s the chimney and fireplace, at least some – and possibly all – of which will have to be taken apart brick by brick prior to the house’s move.

The double-hung windows need to be safely removed, with care to preserve the glass. (The new house may get new windows, but the city might want to use the old ones elsewhere.) An existing canopy needs to be removed and stacked aside, while newer things like hose reels, cable boxes and antennae masts must be taken off the home and trashed. Siding material may also expose original cedar shake cladding, which may be kept or discarded.

Then there is the significant addition to the home erected far after the original structure was built. The addition isn’t needed, but proponents are told that disconnecting it “must occur hand by hand” in order to prevent damage to the historic structure. And if removing the addition creates structural concerns about the historic house, an engineer and architect will have to be called out.

To make sure the house is good to transported a couple kilometres, an engineer may determine that a thick layer of plywood will need to be added to the home’s exterior.

There’s more work to do inside the house, where city workers will remove valuable items, including a piano, and not-as-valuable pieces like electrical plugs and switches. Light fixtures and doors will also likely need to be removed, as will a large amount of gypsum walling.

The home’s parlour is particularly important to the history of the house. The city would prefer to have the finishes left in place, but it’s possible that a new, temporary wall will have to be built in order to support the structure while in transit.

Throughout the process, no excavators are to be used.

The company tasked with moving the building, meanwhile, will have to get the signoff from CN Rail and the Ministry of Transportation, and determine the best route to the new site, which is to front Clayburn Road and be immediately opposite of Clayburn Lane. They will also have to make sure that no power lines are taken out by the home.

Getting the home back on the ground also will take some work, with a new foundation needed, along with a pathway that can accommodate a truck, trailer and home.

Last fall, council signed off on the project, which elicited delight from The Reach’s historical collections curator Kris Foulds. She said the house is among the very oldest homes in the city that is in near-original condition, and that its age, condition, builder and previous occupant made it particularly valuable.

The man who built the home, Alben Hawkins – the first settler to live on Mt. Lehman – wrote about the house’s construction in his daily journal in 1875. The house was built for Turner, who was a Royal Engineer who helped plan out and survey the Lower Mainland in the latter half of the 19th century.

The entire project is expected to cost about $500,000. Moving the home is expected to cost about a quarter of that, with the rest going to a new foundation and improvements to the park.

 

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