Greg Young and his wife, Dawn Stephens, almost gave up in their quest to move the historic Brewer House when their initial attempts were thwarted.
“When we were first shot down, I thought, ‘at least we tried,'” Young said.
But the couple persisted, navigating a world of red tape to get to the last-minute details this week before the 117-year-old house moves on Thursday, April 3, to the music of a marching band.
Constructed in 1897, the building, at 847 Fourth Ave. SE, is on the National Register of Historic Places, but has been vacant since it was purchased by Mercy Medical Center in 2011.
“As I had the opportunity to walk through this really beautiful, period home, it became clear that what we needed to do was find a solution that enabled this house to be preserved,” Mercy President and CEO Tim Charles said in a news release.
Mercy eventually sold the home to Stephens and Young for $1, with the condition that the couple move the house and restore it. The hospital is donating what would have been the demolition expenses toward the move.
Total cost of the move is estimated at $60,000, almost half of which will be recouped in the form of historic tax credits, along with other costs of renovation.
If all goes as planned, the home will start its journey beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday; a process expected to take about four hours.
At 11 a.m. that day at Eighth Avenue and Seventh Street SE, Young and Stephens, both brass musicians, plan to have a band play a tune that was written for the home’s original owner, Luther Brewer.
Fellow musicians from radio station Z102.9’s Schulte & Swann marching band and “other assorted friends” plan to play the music that Young arranged after stumbling across the piece in archives of the Cedar Rapids Republican, a newspaper owned by Brewer.
“It almost instantly came to my mind that we have to play this while the house is moving down the street,” said Young, a Rockwell Collins employee who performs in area bands.
The “Cedar Rapids Republican March” was written for Brewer and dedicated to him by T. B. Boyer. The condensed score was published in the newspaper on February 24, 1918. Young used the score to create an arrangement for marching band.
Stephens is taking off this week as resource coordinator for the Oak Hill Jackson Resource Center to prepare for the move, which includes buying cookies to celebrate with friends when the house arrives at the lot they purchased at 616 10th Ave. SE, in the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood.
The building’s foundation has been poured at the new site, but they were still waiting for the basement floor to be installed, along with other details being finalized before the move.
“I can’t think about anything else this week,” Stephens said.
Thursday will start early for the two, who will be discussing the move beginning about 7:15 a.m. on Z102.9 before reaching the site of the house by 8 a.m. The route begins by going through a neighboring parking lot to Fourth Avenue SE, crossing Eighth Street before taking a left onto Seventh Street. The move will continue down Seventh before turning on 10th Avenue for another half-block to reach its destination.
Already, the house has been lifted by Goodwin House Moving, which was hired to conduct the move.
Goodwin House Moving, started in 1930 in Washington, Iowa, uses hydraulic dollies, hydraulic fifth wheels, a hydraulic jacking machine and precision machinery rollers to move homes, averaging 80 to 90 buildings per year.
Cross-beams that weigh about 15 tons have been inserted in the home, which is estimated to weigh at least 90 tons, Young said. Goodwin recently raised the house in preparation for the move, something that has disturbed some passers-by who think the building, now surrounded by medical parking lots, is going to be demolished.
Stephens and Young hope to have the move – a distance of about 10 blocks – completed by 1 p.m. Thursday. Utility wires have to be lowered for the move; work that has been scheduled in advance. So despite a forecast that calls for cold temperatures and rain, the couple say the moving date won’t change.
“It’s happening Thursday. Period,” Young said.
Besides the long process to reach this day, the two have extra incentive to stay on schedule.
Once completed, it will still be at least a few months before the couple can move inside. Both have been living in temporary quarters with relatives after their apartment lease expired in January.
See interior photos and read more about the Brewer House from Save Cedar Rapids Heritage.