A Chappaquiddick house was on the move this weekend, as the key part of a large and complicated project to relocate the home owned by Richard and Jennifer Schifter away from an eroding bluff began.
The actual move got underway on Saturday. The project started last fall with discussions in town hall and began in earnest in March as a rapidly eroding bluff at Wasque threatened the Schifter home.
Following months of preparations, the 8,300-square-foot house is now shored up and resting on small, red-wheeled dollies. It was being angled and positioned over the weekend and will be in place soon at its new location 275 away from the bluff, project engineer George Sourati told the Gazette Saturday.
Mr. Sourati said the house had to be in the right position and height before it will be moved into its new location; as of early Sunday afternoon it had not been moved far. A section of Wasque Point is now an elaborate work site devoid of any vegetation, as the topsoil, trees and shrubs have been removed and stored elsewhere; large mounds of sandy subsoil are nearly as tall as the trees around the site.
On Saturday and Sunday, the view of the Atlantic Ocean was shortened by fog as workers in orange vests and hard hats stood on the site. The house move is being carried out the Expert House Movers of Maryland, headed by Jerry Matyiko, and overseen by International Chimney Corporation, a New York company that specializes in moving large structures, headed by Richard Lohr.
The workers are practiced in their craft and have gone about their business with quiet efficiency in recent months and weeks. There is no rubble at the site; only the Schifter home, now jacked up and on dollies, mountains of sand surrounding the excavated area and an array of equipment small and large needed for the job. The site is surrounded by ocean sounds, with waves crashing against the bluff below.
A guest house and garage have already been moved elsewhere on the site, and the swimming pool has been removed. To allow enough land area to move the house, the family bought a neighboring property with a house on it; that house had to be moved as well. For the main house move, footings had to be placed on the new site and a trench dug between the old and new house locations. The house is being moved with the basement, which has a movie theatre and bowling alley, attached.
The move has been a source of widespread interest on Martha’s Vineyard and beyond, and especially for the small Chappaquiddick community. The public is not permitted on the work site, which is surrounded by a wire fence. On Sunday, some people stopped by to look through the fence, take cell phone pictures and check out the project.
Once the house is moved, the next step will be to build a masonry block wall to join the concrete footings in the new house site with the actual house, and to remove steel beams that were placed beneath the house. Mr. Sourati said that process will take five to six weeks.
The town conservation commission previously stipulated that holes created by the house move had to be filled in quickly. The entire project was expected to take about a year, and the engineers earlier reported that the house would be moving in mid-July.
Mr. Sourati said the decision to move the house this weekend was made late last week.
For more photos of the house move, see our gallery: Schifter House Move Underway.