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Neighbors pleased that 1939 home moved, not scrapped for fire hall progress

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Dressed in their housecoats, a flurry of rain sprinkles and a cool breeze didn’t bother sisters Korina and Janice Dunn Sunday morning as they watched a house built in 1939 start its six-block journey from Sixth Avenue and Lyon to begin life anew on S.E. Jefferson.

The home — that for many years was used as an office — was recently purchased from the city at auction for $501 by Albany firefighter Scott Cowan, who plans to restore it into a single-family dwelling.

Staff from Northwest Structural Moving of Scappoose got an early jump on the project, starting long before the first rooster in town crowed and began pulling the two pieces of the homes several minutes before the planned 7 a.m. start.

In competitive sports like auto racing or Olympic sprinting, thousandths of a second determine success from failure, but in the world of moving giant structures, slow is better.

Cowan said the move was expected to go “at a walking pace” but that all depended on how many overhead electrical lines and tree branches had to be dealt with along the route.

The Dunn sisters moved to Albany from southern California and said they were ecstatic to see the historic home saved and not demolished.

“This is awesome,” Korina said. “We’re so happy they are saving this house instead of tearing it down. We’re really thrilled. It’s a beautiful house.”

Her sister added, “It’s great for the entire community.”

Their home backs up to the fire department property and the sisters said they hated to see a large tree removed to make way for the new fire hall, but admitted it had to be done.

“We’re happy that someone is going to be able to love this house for many years to come,” Korina said.

Cowan said that although he has undertaken construction projects before, this is by far the largest to date.

“Exciting, huh?” he queried as moving company staff lifted electric lines and used hydraulic equipment to lower one section of the house that needed more clearance.

“It is about 2,200 square feet and has four bedrooms,” Cowan said. “We knew it was going to be demolished and that seemed like a sad deal, to see it thrown into the landfill when it’s in perfectly good shape.”

The city bought the property in 2014 and will use the lot for development of a new fire hall, closing off a portion of Sixth to create enough space for the project.

Cowan said he hasn’t decided whether he will keep the house as a rental, or sell it.

He secured a $105,000 loan from the Central Albany Revitalization Area and said CARA, the city and the Historic Landmark Committee have been extremely helpful.

“The house will be set up about four feet in the air at the new site and then we will have a foundation built under it,” Cowan said. “Other than the moving company, we will use all local contractors.”

Cowan admitted the project was, “very exciting, but also scary at the same time. There are so many unknowns in terms of how it is going to go back together.”

Cowan said the house is structurally sound and has a “new roof and little to no dry rot.”

He hopes to have the project completed by the end of summer.

The procession drew a crowd of onlookers from start to finish, including families with children.

The Northwest Structural Moving crew prepared the two halves of the building for the move on Friday.

Richard’s Dry Cleaning building south of the fire hall was recently demolished and the business moved into a newly remodeled building about a block north of its former location.

Albany residents approved an $18 million bond in May 2015 to build a new police department building and a new downtown fire hall.

The current fire hall was built in 1949 and has numerous structural issues. The new fire station will encompass 25,218 square feet.

Voters rejected a proposed $20.3 million bond measure for the same projects in November 2013.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.


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