Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It was a year ago today that the second floor of the Cheney Cottage crossed Berkeley to Albany Village, to sit 50 feet away from the first floor, which had made the trip two days earlier. They spent a full year in pieces; at times, they were 5 miles apart; they moved from the Campus west and north to Albany, then crossed Berkeley again to the souther most edge of town, and hovered inches apart. But now, the first and second floors of the Cheney Cottage are back together

It was quite a process. The first thing that had to happen was Phil Joy and his crew had to get the long beams out of the house. So they built cribbing inside the house: from the dirt in the crawlspace up to the first floor, then from the first floor to the ceiling below the second floor, and then from the second floor to the ceiling. The house was then lifted on jacks to pull the second floor up off the beams, and the beams were slid out.
With cribbing inside the front door, getting ready to move the beams

The beams were huge and hard to move. The beam in the back was particularly difficult, as they couldn't just pull it out the side (the apartment building next door was in the way). So they built another pile of cribbing in the parking lot next door, and slid the beam out onto that, then used the crane to lift the beam off.

Once the beams were removed, the second floor had to be adjusted to get it perfectly in place. Plumb bobs were hung from each of the corners, and the house was lowered slowly - first one corner, then another - to get them to line up. The crew put jacks on a slight angle, raised the second floor a little bit, and let the jacks rock forward to get it into position.

When the second floor was perfectly aligned with the first, it was slowly lowered into place. Yesterday, the two pieces touched, and Eric and his crew started screwing and nailing the wall studs to the sole plate.

We went over this morning and walked around inside the house. The beams that for the last year held the second floor walls rigid are all gone, and we are finally back in the upstairs bedrooms. The place is a mess, but at least it's one house again. It was nice to reacquaint ourselves with the house we have worked and sweated for all these many months.
Peeling wallpaper, standing in the back bedroom for the first time since April 2010

Now, Eric and his crew are working on the connection details. Of course, it isn't just a matter of nailing the house back together - there are seismic requirements and engineering details that have to be completed - but by Tuesday, they should be done, the inspection should be completed, and we can begin putting the house back together. We will have plenty of siding to patch, and then lots of interior plaster to repair. Not to mention all the other work that has to get done.
The view on 62nd Street, with the Cheney Cottage back together

But the streetscape on 62nd Street looks different than it did, with the two houses on our lot in their new locations (one still on cribbing). The picture above shows our two projects, plus Christine's house next door. Her house was built by the Delaney family when they subdivided the lot, back in the early 1920s.

Tom also went up and took a picture today of the former site of the Cheney Cottage on what was once College Avenue - now a parking lot with temporary buildings on it. So both sites have been changed dramatically. But the Cheney Cottage survives.
The former site of the Cheney Cottage (darker patch of asphalt)

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