EASTON — The massive historic manor house on wheels has left town, leaving behind a legacy of fascination and curiosity about what’s going to happen next. Some people report feeling a little empty after all the excitement.
For the last two weeks, folks in town have been excited about the moving of the 255-year-old Galloway mansion.
The move involved putting the circa 1760 manor house on wheels, crossing U.S. Route 50, traveling slowly down the Easton Parkway during several nights and arriving at Easton Point, placing it upon a barge and floating it to a new property near Wye Island.
The Neeley family purchased the old home on Chapel Road last year, along with property, and arranged to have the house moved to their waterfront property at Cheston on Wye. The movers are the Expert House Movers company, the same company that moved the Block Island Lighthouse in 1993 and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999.
The whole process was an immense feat of coordination and engineering that fascinated the Mid-Shore public. Hundreds of people turned out during the wee hours of the morning to watch the moving process, bringing lawn chairs and refreshments. Folks from far and wide visited the house on wheels wherever it was parked in town during the day.
It was the business of being placed on the barge where a few hiccups occurred. The barge that arrived and was ready for work on Sept. 13 had ballast problems and began to list. Eventually that barge was righted but after an engineering consultation, it was deemed a larger barge was needed.
The mansion spent the weekend in a grassy park on Easton Point. Then on Tuesday, Sept. 24, a second, much larger barge arrived at Easton Point.
Getting the 400-ton structure on the barge began a little earlier than 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Even in the pre-dawn darkness, a crowd came to watch just how complicated it is to wheel a centuries-old manor house onto a barge.
Crews from Expert House Movers quickly maneuvered their forklifts to build ramp ways, chocked up with solid lumber underneath flat panels that would ease the house’s transition from land to boat. At least three pilings at the Easton Point bulkhead had to be sawed off to allow for the passing of the wheels.
Time was of the essence. According to the movers, there was a narrow window, two hours before and two hours after low tide during which the transfer could be made. Low tide at Easton Point was at 8:42 a.m.
The new, larger barge was pumped full of water to lower it and provide an even surface for the transfer. As the mansion was wheeled inch-by-inch onto the barge, water was pumped out to equalize the displacement of weight.
After at least eight hours of maneuvering on Wednesday morning, the Galloway mansion was stabilized on the barge and the tugboat Northstar Integrity‘s engines began to rev up.
A large gathering of people at the bulkhead watched as the old manor house pulled away a few minutes after 12 noon.
The mansion had been the grand centerpiece of one of Talbot County’s colonial plantations centuries ago and perhaps people had thought it would always be there. But it had been vacant for several years.
As it moved down the Tred Avon River toward a new life, the enormous structure was a once-in-a-lifetime sight.
Its travels had begun in starts and stops and small increments of miles and meters in Easton, but on Wednesday, it was full speed ahead on the tributaries of the Chesapeake for about 50 miles.
The large barge propelled by the tugboat Northstar Integrity carried the house from Easton Point down the Tred Avon River, past Oxford and out into the Choptank River, by Benoni Point, then Black Walnut Point at the lower end of Tilghman, and out into Eastern Bay.
It passed Oxford at about 1:45 p.m. with onlookers watching from all over town, especially The Strand and across the river at Bellevue.
The tugboat and house were seen from Black Walnut Point at the lower end of Tilghman around 3:15 p.m.
Speeds during the fastest part of the journey were as high as 6.7 knots, according to satellite information.
From Tilghman they traveled north, rounded Claiborne Point, entered the Miles River briefly before the Wye River and around Wye Island. At 6:39 p.m. satellite tracking located the Northstar Integrity entering DeCoursey Cove, near Cheston on Wye.
At about 20 minutes later, close to 7 p.m., the tugboat had stopped, according to the satellite. Sunset was at 6:58 p.m.
The Galloway mansion had reached its new home, just over the border in Queen Anne’s County, just as the sun set on Wednesday, Sept. 25.