Victorian farmhouse in Old Bridge gets new home — February 22 2012

OLD BRIDGE — Michael Stasi has preserved a bit of Old Bridge’s history.

The Red Bank resident and owner of township-based Stasi Landscaping, and his wife, Deborah, had a late-1890s Victorian farmhouse moved to a new location, where it will be preserved for future generations.

“The farm property is being developed, and one of the conditions for approval on the project was that we had to preserve the home,” Stasi said. “It’s historic to Old Bridge. It’s been in our family and the Walton family for years, so there’s history here. It wasn’t a difficult decision to say, ‘We’ll save it.’ It’s a beautiful piece of architecture for the town.”

The property, on Englishtown Road near the intersection of Texas Road, was purchased by the Stasi family in the 1970s and used as a nursery for the family business — Stasi Landscaping Co. Located at the former site of the McBride/Walton Farmstead, the house was renovated in the late 1970s and an addition was built in the 1980s.

Stasi and his wife bought the farm from his parents in 2005, and in order to proceed with their plans to develop the property, last year they also purchased the farm property next door.

The property, where the farmhouse was located, is the future site of a 21-lot single-family home development and neighborhood retail center, Stasi said. The builder for the residential portion is Ryan Homes, a national builder based in Reston, Va.

Stasi said he will retain ownership of the retail commercial portion, develop the project and ultimately manage it.

But for the development plans to move forward, three buildings had to be moved to the adjacent farm.

A 1,200-square-foot metal equipment garage was disassembled, piece by piece, by a Pennsylvania company and driven to the adjoining property, where it was reassembled, Stasi said.

The other two buildings — the farmhouse with its wraparound porch and a 1,000-square-foot metal building, which is home to a paint-ball recreation tenant — were moved intact because the buildings were finished inside, Stasi said.

On Monday, workers with Wolfe House and Building Movers of Bernville, Pa., began the tedious task of moving the 3,000-square-foot farmhouse to its new location at the adjacent farm property about 1,500 feet away.

Workers spent about four days preparing for the move, which included supporting the farmhouse with wooden cribbing and filling in the foundation with dirt, Stasi said. Steel beams were strategically placed under the home and three motorized hydraulic dollies, all controlled from a central diesel power unit that sat on the porch, were placed under the steel beams, he said.

Using a remote control, Nevin Buckingham carefully guided the home away from nearby trees and limbs and rotated the home 180 degrees before embarking on the slow journey across the field. Buckingham, an experienced mover, said he expected the home would travel at most about one-half mile an hour.

The farmhouse inched its way through the woods as it was strategically navigated around trees and shrubs and over a ditch. About seven hours later, the farmhouse was safely placed on an excavated foundation hole.

“I am relieved,” Stasi said. “It wasn’t terribly nerve-racking. Actually, they made it look relatively easy. You just want to make sure it got into the hole without tipping or cracking.”

On Tuesday, workers returned to the site to set the house at the final and proper elevation. On Wednesday, a mason contractor began building the footing and foundation under the home, Stasi said.

Stasi estimated that it would cost at least $300,000 to build this size home today.

“The cost of moving the farmhouse is $35,000, plus a new foundation underneath,” he said. “People think it’s too complicated a process, but I’m not moving it. Someone who knows what they are doing is moving it. Forty years ago, we chose to renovate it and not knock it down. It’s definitely worth keeping. You can’t re-create that. In the end, it was a positive business move and a positive effort to preserve part of the history of Old Bridge.”

The farmhouse will be used as commercial office space, he said.

Stasi said he is grateful to the town and township historian Ann Miller, who have been supportive of his efforts.

Groundbreaking on the new development is expected within a month, he said.

For Stasi, the farmhouse was not the first house move in which he was involved. In 2003, as president of the Red Bank Charter School’s board of trustees, Stasi was a key player in arranging the move of the 138-year-old Century House from one Red Bank location to the charter school’s new home, also in Red Bank.

Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry, a member of the township’s Historical Society, also stopped by the property to see Monday’s move.

“It’s a landmark and it’s well-maintained,” he said. “It’s an important part of the history of Old Bridge and you can’t replace history. You can’t put a dollar value on it. Old Bridge at one time was all farms, and it’s important for the future generations to see what Old Bridge looked like.

“The town thanks the Stasi family for undertaking this adventure here to move the house. We know it’s not easy, especially in these economic times. The Historical Society also is extremely grateful that it’s happening. We have lost a number of homes in town to developers, so we’re pleased that this home will be saved.”

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