Anna Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Augusta Street was a dirt path surrounded by cornfields when the Wilkins House was built in 1876.
The scenery changed when the path was paved into a busy road. Old homes turned into offices. Commercial lots filled up, and yet the Wilkins House stayed.
Now, the once grand mansion has a new perspective.
Inch by inch, the 800-ton home moved some three blocks Saturday morning.
The job, which took more than eight hours — two of them just to turn onto Mills Avenue — saved the home from being demolished for an assisted living center. The structure will now be restored to its original state and new additions will be built in keeping with the Italianate style, said the home's new owner, developer Neil Wilson of RealtyLink.
Six-year-old Drew Reid blew the train whistle that officially started the move just after 7 a.m. Saturday. The house lumbered down Otis Street and through a parking lot, fitting neatly between two office buildings. It made a sharp right on Mills, where dozens of onlookers ogled at the sight of a house raised up on beams and tires.
Two forklifts were kept busy the whole time, hopscotching steel plates along the road for stability. Several trees were taken down, as were some utility wires cut by Duke Energy.
The power was still out at noon when a woman went into labor at the birth center on Mills Avenue. Amy Leland, a midwife with Blessed Births, said she hadn't been told about the outage when the lights went out but that police were bringing her a generator.
"If need be, I can deliver by flashlight," Leland said. "Doesn't stress me out a bit."
By 2 p.m., the house had turned onto a vacant lot on Elm Street, where it will stay, safe from future threats.
Wilson said he plans to live there and open the house to the public four times a year. Several non-profit groups, including the Greenville Historical Society, Greenville Humane Society, and the Governor's School for the Arts & Humanities, will be able to use it for fundraising efforts as part of a agreement with Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation.
Palmetto Trust worked with local residents to raise more than $294,000 to help relocate the Wilkins House. Wilson himself became the biggest donor by pledging $360,000. The developer behind the assisted living center pledged $10,000.
"It's the heaviest structure ever moved in the state," said Mike Bedenbaugh, executive director of Palmetto Trust.
Bedenbaugh said he normally doesn't like moving a structure because it detracts from the historical significance but that the Wilkins House was a special case.
"The only reason this one was done this way was because the architecture was so extraordinary that it was worth it," he said.