Clippings: A moving day for Osborne House

On Monday at 3:45 a.m. the road from Brandon to Middlebury was like driving through ink; thick darkness all around with a light rain. The temperature was in the low 40s. My vision became limited to the undulations and twists and turns in the road. I drove the 16 miles watching the centerline spool out in front of the car, alternating single then double in rhythm to the radio. The specters of rotted barns and cars took on eerie portents of the coming Halloween on Friday. The huge gorilla statue standing watch in front of Pioneer Auto Sales was downright menacing with its teeth bared in yellow spotlights.
But there was no time to stop for a picture and turning around was out of the question; there was a house moving across the Cross Street Bridge in downtown Middlebury, and I was determined to make a video of it.
The center of Middlebury across the street from the traffic circle was already a buzz of energy surrounding calm, methodical movement. The clapboards of the 198-year-old, two-story Osborne House stood caught in the strobing blue light of an Addison County sheriff’s car, while underneath a ring of work lights illuminated three massive axles with thick wheels that reminded me of a ridiculously oversized shopping cart. Big orange trucks from Green Mountain Power were parked next to utility poles, their buckets raised high as workers slackened telecommunication and power lines.
The moving of an entire house across town was clearly a reason to get up early. When I arrived on the scene, a small cluster of gawkers had already gathered in front of Two Brothers Tavern and they stood there drinking out of thermoses or hopping from one foot to another to keep toes warm.
Shortly after arriving, I was joined by a friend who greeted me with a 16-ounce can of Red Bull with a plastic crazy straw. Walking around the perimeter of orange netting, I alternated drinking heavily through the straw and taking still photos of the workers moving with calm efficiency. There was nothing about their nature that suggested hurry or alarm, their movements were executed with the deliberate poise of professionals that have done this exact task many times before. For them, it seemed to be another day at the office — so to speak.
The atmosphere had an exciting potential energy that something very extraordinary was about to happen — that or it was the sugar and taurine in the Red Bull doing its work.
By 4:47 I had finished the energy drink, the house hadn’t moved an inch and I was getting antsy and cold. But the crowd around me was growing. More pedestrians lined the netting and crowded the traffic circle and a good number of them were holding cameras or phones. The start sign of the impending move was when two jack-o-lanterns were placed on either side of the 118-ton Osborne House (I assume two were placed for equal weight). Then, at a pace that could be best described as a crawl, the 54 tires made their first tentative rotations, directed by a man holding a remote control. After clearing the curb with the help of ramps constructed with gravel and plywood, the movers straightened the house at the intersection with Cross Street and the house began to move across the bridge.
The departure of the house from Main Street onto the bridge prompted a rush of spectators like myself down Main Street, up Merchants Row and around the corner to South Pleasant Street to await the house as it crossed Otter Creek. At the end of the bridge, a man in a reflective vest checked the height of the cables above the street with a long pole before the house inched under it.
The most surreal part was at the end, when the house backed up over the sidewalk and into position over a foundation at 6 Cross St. The dollies supporting the house would be removed in the coming days as the house settled into its new home.
By this point, it was just after dawn, around 7 in the morning. The audience watching the spectacle grew as Middlebury woke up for the workday. Cars began to fill the streets and parents walking their kids to school stopped to watch with mouths agape. Meanwhile, the lot at 77 Main St. stood startlingly vacant, like a missing tooth.
Finally I went to the office and sat down to put what I saw into some semblance of a video. The effects of the energy drink had long worn off and my bones ached for a nap.
It was 8:15 a.m. and my day was just getting started.
Editor’s note: Evan’s finished video can be seen by clicking here.

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