Preservation Can Be a Moving Experience

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News, Old House History
23 Year Restoration, One Piece at a Time

23 Year Restoration, One Piece at a Time

We all need a little inspiration from time to time; at least I know I do. When a restoration project becomes much more work than I originally thought it would be–or it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day–I sometimes need help finding that energy reserve deep inside me. I recently came across an article about an English lady, the old house she loved, and the efforts she went to in saving the house from demolition. If this doesn’t inspire you, I doubt anything will.

A 23-Year Preservation Project and a Lot of Determination

May Savidge purchased a 400-year-old English home in 1947 after the early death of her husband. She grew up understanding what hard work was all about and decided to tackle the restoration work on the old house herself. In 1953, after six years of putting her sweat and labor into the home, she was informed that the house was going to have to be torn down to make way for a new highway being constructed. Ms. Savidge fought the demolition order in court for fifteen years before she finally ran out of legal options for saving the house. She was fifty-eight years old when they came to tear down the old house she loved.

Most people would have admitted defeat after fighting a legal battle for fifteen years and having no success, but not May Savidge. If she couldn’t keep the old house from being torn down, then she would save it by moving the home to a new location, and that’s what she did for the next twenty-three years. May Savidge marked each piece of the old house as it was taken apart and then moved each of the pieces 100 miles to begin a complete restoration that ended up taking 23 years to finish.  This isn’t a story about an old house enthusiast hiring contractors to move and restore a historic home; this is a story about a woman’s perseverance and her determination to single-handedly save an old house she loved from destruction.

Another Moving Preservation Story

Lynn Danaher of San Juan Island, Washington, is another source of inspiration. She is getting ready to move a 79-year-old Craftsman to a new lot and begin the restoration process. The previous owner of the old house wanted to build a new home on his lot, but he didn’t want to see his old Craftsman torn down. He is helping Ms. Danaher with the moving costs on what is going to be her fifth old house restoration in the Washington area.

May Savidge and Lynn Danaher show the rest of us what is possible if you set your mind to it and aren’t afraid of a little hard work.