We Moved a 224-Year-Old Stone House 1.2 Miles

Here's Why We Did It.

Michael Bachman emigrated from Germany to America. In 1782 he bought 176 acres of land in Penn's Woods, and 8 years after that, he built a stone house for himself and his wife, Elisabeth. The total cost to build the home is estimated at $380.

The 500-ton stone house stood on the same spot from 1790 until 2014, when its fate became uncertain. Hempfield school district had owned the home and the property since 2010, and originally planned to convert the home into administrative offices, but after some cost research, eventually abandoned the idea. The house either needed to be moved or destroyed.

Mark Ashley had long admired the old stone house since his days playing on the Hempfield High School soccer field. At the time, he never thought he'd end up owning it. "I grew up here, and went to high school in this school district building, and played soccer in the field right beside it. I always admired it, and thought it was a beautiful home, and saw that the couple at that time was restoring it. Just watching them work on their house, I thought, ‘Boy, that’s a neat place!’."

When the home went up for sale, Mark was definitely interested.

Meet the Homeowners

"Old houses have something you can’t just make today." — Judy Ashley

Mark and Judy Ashley of Landisville, PA bought the home they loved to save it from demolition.

When Mark Ashley became a coach at Hempfield high school, he found himself on the soccer field again — still playing next to that old, familiar landmark. Because of their interest in the home, Mark and his wife Judy decided to visit the couple who was restoring it. They walked through the house, then looked through photos showing what it had been like before its recent renovations.

When the school board abandoned the idea of converting the home into offices, they wanted it removed. Mark and Judy stepped in to save the home demolition and inquired about purchasing the home from the school. The Ashleys were able to purchase it with a sealed bid, for only $1000, with the understanding they would be responsible for re-locating the house.

How do you pick up and move 500 tons of stone and wood? You call in the experts and start creating a plan.

500 Tons of Stone and Brick

"This house was built by Michael Bachman & Elisabeth B.N. - 1790"

The Pennsylvania stone house was built in 1790, had walls about a foot and a half thick, and weighed nearly 500 tons. When Mark had first begun researching the cost and feasibility of moving it, his research led him to the Wolfe House & Building Movers website, where he learned of their experience in moving heavy masonry houses similar to the one he wanted to move.

"When you start thinking about moving a house," Mark remembers, "you want to go to the best. We had heard that Wolfe, when it comes to historic homes — especially brick and mortar or stone houses like this one — were experts in that area, in the whole Northeast. Their reputation preceded them."

Choosing the Safest Path

Mike Brovont drove to the site in Landisville after a few phone calls and email exchanges with Mark Ashley. Mike is the lead project estimator for Wolfe House & Building Movers. Mike and Mark walked the proposed moving route, with Mike answering Mark's questions along the way. "We started the conversation," Mark recalls, "and it seemed like every time we hit another barrier, Mike was able to help us navigate through it and make it possible."

Finally we said, "Let's go. Let's make it happen." Choosing a final route was a bit time consuming, as there were many obstacles to pass, and a flowing creek to be crossed.

It Wasn't All Easy Going

Wolfe’s work crew soon discovered some formidable native stone beneath the house, which required more excavation than normal. Then there was another problem. “The mortar under three walls was very good,” Wolfe's co–owner Jamin Buckingham recollects. “But in the fourth wall, there was nothing left of the mortar below ground level where our beams would be supported. We had to do some repair and dry packing there.”

An inferior wood frame addition was removed from the original colonial structure as well. Several feet of soil were removed from around the house to make room for high-strength steel lifting beams. The beams were positioned underneath the house through holes made in the basement walls.


Day 1 - Time To Move

On a lovely Saturday in May, the house was rotated nearly three–quarters of a turn. That way, at the end of its journey, it would be correctly positioned for its new foundation.

Day 2 - A Spectator Event

On Monday, the building was driven away from its original site. The large stone landmark slowly rolled past many buildings on the Hempfield campus, while a few teachers and students took advantage and stepped outside to take in this fascinating experience.

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Day 3 - The Route Gets Muddy

Tuesday morning found dozens of utility trucks, workers, and police on site, slowing and then re-routing the traffic on a busy street, while line workers detached cables and dropped them to the ground.

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Would We Do It Again? Absolutely

Now that it’s been several months since the move, we asked Mark: Considering the cost and time if took, would you make the same decision again?

Mark is a man of faith, and his answer testifies to it: “Absolutely.” He then goes on, to qualify his answer. “But, only if through prayer we believed God was leading us to take this step. “We prayerfully made the decision to move the house, and sensed God’s leading to take this giant leap of faith — faith in God’s provision, and a confidence in Wolfe House Mover’s abilities!”

The entire process, from the time Mark and Judy first contacted Wolfe House & Building Movers, until their home was resting on its new foundation, took about 14 months.

Many decisions had to be made, and much of it was a balancing act of weighing what the Ashley family desired against the cost and sacrifice required to see meet their goals for the project.

Mark added, “We have already recommended Wolfe House Movers to two families who are considering moving a home.”