Preserving history and craftsmanship is primary motivation.
A house that has weathered wind, hail, fire and Kansas tornadoes for more than 100 years escaped the wrecker's bite when it was moved to a new location on Thursday.
The First United Methodist Church purchased the house at 115 N. Main, adjacent to the church parking lot, from Stuart and Allison Reed, with long-term plans of erecting a multi-purpose building in its space. In the near term, the parking lot will be expanded and a play area for older children — a place to toss a football around — will be created, according to Edwin Boots, chairman of the Board of Trustees. Work is already underway to make the lot safe and presentable.
The church offered the house for sale to be moved early in 2012, and had a few lookers but no takers. They next offered parts for salvage, and kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, the front porch rail and other parts were removed. The next step appeared to be crunching up the two-story house and burying it in the county landfill.
"It's too good to throw away," said David Bronson, a remodeling carpenter from Sawyer, who bought the house with the intention of moving it if possible, or doing extensive salvage if necessary. "We don't get lumber like that any more — the old-growth timber is gone — and we don't see that kind of craftsmanship."
W.H. Shrack purchased lot 5 in the first block of North Main in 1886 and lots 4 and 6 in 1896. He and his wife Amanda lived in the house on lot 5 until his death in 1912, according to information provided by great-grandsons Phil Shrack of Iuka and Bill Randle.
W.H.'s son Orville, a Pratt jeweler and optometrist, lived in a house just south, and his family moved next door to help care for Amanda. "Mother Shrack," as she is referred to by family, remained in the house until she died, and Orville's wife Gertrude died in 1972. The house was sold outside of the family at that time.
Orville's original house, located in what is now the church parking lot, was relocated near Southwest Elementary School many years ago, Phil Shrack said. A service station occupied the corner of First and Main for several years.
Unruh House Moving, Inc., of Moundridge pulled into Pratt Tuesday to prepare for moving a second Shrack house. They're four equal partners, distantly related, but with an alliance through the Holdeman Mennonite Church. The company has been in business since 1979 and performs about 50 moves a year — one a week, Dwayne Unruh said. They move barns, sheds and houses, some vacant like the current project, but others are fully furnished. Homeowners don't have to pack their belongings, and even a glass of water is secure, according to their website.
It's a careful process, made easier by equipment that is completely different today, than when Dwayne Unruh joined the company in 1996.
They start by removing foundation blocks in the same location where openings are left in the new basement walls. They slide in metal beams that weigh about 6,000 pounds each, using a winch truck capable of picking up 10,000 pounds. Another set of beams goes in on top of the main beams at right angles, then they build "cribbing" of lumber, placed like Lincoln Logs.
Four dollies are moved in, topped by a smaller set of "skid" beams, coated with Ivory soap. With two winch trucks, they pull the 62-ton house across the soapy beams, until it is resting on the dollies. All that was accomplished by Wednesday afternoon.
The house was pulled into Main Street at 1 p.m. on Thursday and turned east at Cherry Street about 40 minutes later. By 3 o'clock the house was poised at the edge of the new basement, located on the northwest corner of the former USD 382 Central Office property.
The house movers' involvement in the project, although dramatic, is relatively short in duration. And while it is a major milestone, a lot of work remains to be done before the house will be marketable.