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Moving house: Historic Piedmont home relocated

Reo 'n' Jill

Three-year-old French bulldogs Reo and Jill, owned by Piedmont resident Tim Cowan, were witness all Monday morning to the moving of the historic Ruby Roberts house a short distance to its new home in Piedmont. 

PIEDMONT Tim Cowan can trace his family’s lineage in Piedmont back to the late 1800s when the city was called Cross Plains.

His great-grandfather owned the first drugstore in Piedmont. His father was raised in a house where the city’s post office now stands.

Piedmont’s history is a part of Cowan’s life, so when he learned one of the city’s oldest homes was being relocated Monday to save it from demolition, he made sure he was there to see it.

“The history means a lot to me,” Cowan said. “I even made a donation when the moving project got going.”

Cowan sat in the cab of his pickup truck with his two 3-year-old French bulldogs, Reo and Jill, all Monday morning to watch a crew move the historic Ruby Roberts house. More than 20 people did the same to see the house roll less than a mile to downtown Piedmont — the end of a project more than a year in the making.

“It’s a miracle,” said Gerald Whitton, president of the Piedmont Historical Society, which bought the land for the house’s new resting place and will soon take ownership of the building from the First Baptist Church of Piedmont. “It’s long overdue.”

 

Whitton had a chair placed Monday morning at the house’s new spot near the intersection of Front Street and Center Avenue. From there he had a clear view as the house was moved from Ladiga Street behind the First Baptist Church.

“I wanted to be able to see the whole thing,” Whitton said.

First Baptist announced in January 2015 its plan to demolish the house and replace it with a parking lot. Once news of the plan spread, Piedmont native Ben Ingram began a campaign to save the house. He raised $55,000 to pay for the move and got the historical society involved, which plans to use the house as an addition to its nearby Piedmont museum.

Jacob Daley, the first mayor of Cross Plains, later renamed Piedmont, built the house in 1888. The house is named after Ruby Roberts, a schoolteacher and the last person to own and live in it. It was deeded to the First Baptist Church after her death.

Six workers with Hollis Kennedy House Movers of Athens spent nearly two hours moving the house less than a mile to its new foundation. City workers temporarily removed several power lines along the route for the house to travel safely.

 

Keith Kennedy, owner of the moving company, said his business relocates about two historic buildings a year and 25 houses overall.

“This move is pretty basic,” Kennedy said of the Roberts house relocation. “Everything went as about as well as it possibly could.”

The house was placed over its new resting place Monday, but the work isn't done. Kennedy said the house’s brick foundation would be laid in the coming days.

David Nougher, who lived less than a block away from the Roberts house for 36 years, came outside to snap a few pictures of the building as a truck slowly pulled it away.

“It’s kind of interesting,” Nougher said of the move. “I’m glad it’s being saved.”

Brenda Ingram brought her 5-year-old grandson Dustin Morrow to see the move Monday.

“In future years when he drives by, he’ll remember that he got to see this,” Ingram said. “This is something you don’t get to see every day.”

The house has been saved, but much work is still needed before it can be of use, Whitton said.

Whitton said money is needed to pay for renovations to bring the house up to code. Whitton said the historical society is currently eyeing several grants to help cover the cost.

“We will have our work cut out for us to restore the building,” Whitton said. “It will be a slow process, but the main thing is we saved the house.”

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.