Slaves and immigrants built the Fairfax House for pioneer and settler John Marshall in 1839 and 1840.
Now, 172 years later, the house is at a new location with a new future role, probably as a museum.
The stately Greek Revival structure last week was moved a few hundred feet north from its perch along Manchester Road to a spot on the north end of the same property, at the northeastern corner of Manchester and McKnight roads.
U-Gas Inc. of Fenton is paying for the move. It bought the property where the Fairfax House had been situated for a gas station, car wash and convenience store. The city of Rock Hill, which owns the Fairfax House, had made its preservation a condition of its approving the deal..
Construction of the gas station is expected start next month, with completion in September.
Brinkmann Constructors, working with Wolfe House Movers, last week picked up the house and moved it north along McKnight. Today the house stands elevated on a platform.
“Those old houses aren’t square or plumb, so we can build the foundation to the shape of the house,” said Kendrick Lathum, project manager for Brinkmann. The structure is likely to be lowered onto the foundation later this month or early next month.
Not everyone is pleased about the move. A group of residents has worked hard for years to restore it.
“I have done everything I could to try and preserve this house,” said Donia Hunter, chair of the volunteer Fairfax Restoration Group. “It isn’t just that they want to move it. They are shoving it in the back of the lot to stand up against apartments and a sidewalk.”
Rock Hill assumed ownership of the building in 1997. It was vacant for a few years and since then has been used for special events.
Fairfax is among the oldest and most historically significant structures in the St. Louis area, Hunter said.
She said its next use will probably be as a museum for local history.
The house’s fate is bittersweet for some historic preservationists. While it at least is remaining in Rock Hill, the old Rock Hill Church that had adjoined it was not saved intact and will not stay in Rock Hill.
A winery owner, however, has taken it on himself to spare the church from going into a landfill.
Carl Bolm, owner of Cedar Lake Cellars near Foristell, said he intends to rebuild the church as closely as possible to the way it had stood. It will be used for weddings and other events.
Once all the pieces arrive at the winery, Bolm expects the rebuilding will take about a year.
“The mortar has to be knocked off of every stone,” he noted.
In the early 1840s, slaves and immigrants carried stones one by one to build the Rock Church. It opened in 1845.
“At 7 o’clock the church was there, and by 10 a.m. it was gone,” said Lathum, who said the work was completed carefully and with attention to preserving the pieces and artifacts.
Lathum said that 12 truckloads of fieldstone were taken to the winery.
A large semi-trailer is taking more delicate cargo: the oak pews, stained-glass windows, light fixtures and decorative metal pieces, as well as numbered stones that will be reinstalled by the windows and front entrance.
The red front door is in the truck.
The church played an important role in African-American and pioneer history in St. Louis County. Preservation groups and local residents had sought to find a buyer who would move the church to another site in Rock Hill. They held vigils and sales, raising about $8,000 — not nearly enough for a project that could cost around $800,000.
Bolm said he’s committed to the project. If he were not, he said, “I wouldn’t be going to this much trouble, expense and effort.”
He added: “I’ll do the best I can to preserve it the way it was in Rock Hill.”
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