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Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008 10:31 am

A dramatic move on Seventh Street

Court and Karen Conn head team of rescuers to save the Maisenbacher House

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Expert Movers measure for the turn onto Jackson Street.
PHOTO BY GINNY LEE

The twelve-member crew of Expert House Movers carefully eased the 19th-century Maisenbacher House into Seventh Street. east of the Springfield Clinic last Saturday morning. Though the weather was cold and blustery, a crowd gathered to watch the house move north on Seventh Street to its new home at Seventh and Jackson sreets. It moved a block north on Saturday, then continued its voyage Sunday, arriving at its new location just before 4 p.m.


For months the future of the Lincoln-era Maisenbacher House was unclear, as the Springfield Clinic planned its expansion in the neighborhood, threatening the house’s future. 


Recently a coalition of the City of Springfield, the Heritage Foundation of Downtown Springfield, Inc., and the Springfield Clinic came together to fund moving the house to 503 S. Seventh St., a property owned by Court and Karen Conn, operators of The Inn at 835 on Second Street. The Conns razed the former structure on the property on Seventh Street last week to accommodate the Maisenbacher House.


Karen and Court Conn, new owners of the Maisenbacher House, are pleased with the city’s help in moving the house. Next comes laying the foundation for it.
PHOTO BY GINNY LEE

The Maisenbacher House was a foot wider than Seventh Street itself, so the move presented problems. And drama. Would the house ease past the tree in front of the Townhouse at 718 S. 7th? No. Would it ease past the light pole on the Clinic property? No. Would the crew be able to negotiate obstacles? Yes.


Trees along the five-block route had been trimmed earlier, but when the house began its journey north, it was clear that trees needed to be pruned more drastically to allow the advance of the historic home, which accounted for the delays. Some residents along Seventh Street were unhappy about the neighborhood-altering tree trimming. Some observers groused that city employees would be paid double time to work on Sunday.


City trucks kept busy hauling away limbs all weekend. “The city has been so cooperative with this project,” Karen Conn said. 


The Expert crew had wrapped the 300-ton brick house with three half-inch steel cables to stabilize it and jacked the house up on eight hydraulic eight-wheel dollies for the five-block move north. Joe Matyiko “drove” the house from controls on the back side of the house. 


The premise of the moving operation was a low-tech “chain and a come-along,” according to John Matyiko, head of the operation. The Expert crew performed like a disciplined marching band but without the “Pomp and Circumstance.” Employees James and Ken barked commands (“More, Joe!”) and used hand signals to the crew to make adjustments to the hydraulic rig. The project was expertly choreographed.


John Matyiko, grandfather of the current John Matyiko, started Expert House Movers 40 years ago in Virginia Beach, Va., and it remains a family business today, with other branches in Defiance, Mo., and in Maryland. Four brothers and cousins, plus Uncle Joe Matyiko, helped move the Maisenbacher House. The business also has the distinction of moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina and is one of the premier building movers in the U.S. In 1998 the Expert crew also moved the historic Iles House from South Fifth Street to its current home on South Seventh Street.


Court and Karen Conn hope to renovate the house for retail space for goods made in Illinois. “It’s a perfect location, across from the Lincoln Home,” Court said. The house will sit on Jackson Street for several weeks until a foundation can be laid on the site.

Ginny Lee of Springfield is a photojournalist.