Thirtieth anniversary of a Southport treasure

Posted:  Friday, January 26, 2018 - 8:00am

2018 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Hendricks Hill Museum. On Feb. 8, we will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the actual moving of the house from the waterfront near the head of Pierce Cove to its present location at 419 Hendricks Hill Road (Route 27).

It was an unusually mild day in 1988 when the move took place. The building was owned by Perry Luke, a great-grandson of Ezra Pratt who came to Southport in the 1920s with his son Earl Pratt Sr., the father of Evelyn Sherman and Gus Pratt of Cozy Harbor fame. When the Southport’s Historical Committee was searching for a site to house artifacts that had been gathered for the national Bicentennial in 1976, Luke stepped forward and offered to the town a building that he was about to raze on Ebenecook Road. He also offered the lot on which the Museum now stands. Ethelyn Pinkham Giles loaned the funds necessary to cover the costs of the move, and the process was under way.

Copp Movers, of Cumberland, Maine were hired to do the move, and the first steps were to remove an ell that served as the kitchen and dining area as well as several wrap-around porches. The house had a six-foot by six-foot central chimney which serviced three fireplaces. The entire chimney system was to be moved as an integral part of the house. The next step was to cut four holes in the old foundation so that two huge I-beams could be installed under the house. Smaller I-beams supported the central chimney.

The museum has an excellent video that shows the process, and suffice it to say, great skill and experience carried out the delicate operation. Very slowly the 80-ton house was lifted from its old foundation, wheels were attached to the large I-beams and the house made its slow progress along Ebenecook Road towards Route 27. Cherry pickers were used to raise the phone and electrical wires and to trim branches of trees that barred the way. At one point a utility pole was cleared by only six inches! Very carefully, the right turn was made at the corner and the house was inched gently up the hill toward the museum’s present site.

Huge granite blocks, perhaps eight feet long, were removed from the old foundation and installed at the new. There were wonderful brick arches supporting the chimney and fireplaces on Ebenecook Road that could not be saved because there was not depth of soil at the new site necessary to dig a proper cellar. Nevertheless many of the original bricks were used to restore the interior fireplaces and a Dutch oven.

It seems difficult to imagine how the building was turned into the drive leading to the present museum site even after viewing the video, as shown in the accompanying photograph. Nevertheless, ever so gently, the house was lowered to its new location and the I-beams carefully removed. Only one small crack appeared in the plaster!

So as you drive along Cape Newagen Road between the Methodist Church and the Fire Station next week, imagine the excitement and the drama that occurred there thirty years ago on Feb. 8, 1988!

Nan Jackson is heading up a planning committee for further recognition of the thirtieth anniversary throughout the year. There will be a program at the Town Hall on Monday evening, July 16. Save the date.