A block up Franklin Street from my apartment, a surreal sight greeted onlookers early Sunday morning, an 1882 Victorian rowhouse inching down a three-lane road.
The small crowd that had gathered at Franklin and Golden Gate radiated cheer and amusement, as if a circus parade had unexpectedly arrived on a city's main street.
Cassi Sisto at the Hoodline site (click here)
has an informative article about the abandoned building, and the maze its 70-year-old owner Tom Brown had to make his way through via the Byzantine agencies of the City and County of San Francisco. Planning, Transportation, Police, Traffic Control and other departments all had their own objections and specifications.
The plan to move the historic building six blocks to free up a large empty lot on Franklin Street involved eight years of setbacks and planning, but the monumental task was finally given the green light for Sunday.
A local man and his team led the move, and there's a fun testimonial to him on his company website:
"Phil Joy, of Benicia, is a special kind of magician. He levitates whole houses, and even a few train cars, and moves them around like, well, building blocks.", says John Waters Jr., in an article in Weekly Calistogan News
Though tree branches, signage and lights had been trimmed, moved or rotated ahead of time, it was very much an improvisatory process.
The top of the mansion at one point was stuck on a tree branch next to Opera Plaza, and after some maneuvering they just plowed ahead with a few branches tumbling to the sidewalk.
The six-bedroom mansion is 40 feet tall, 35 feet wide, and 80 feet long, and though crumbling, there were still plenty of traces of its former magnificence.
Turning right at the corner at Franklin and Golden Gate was another stumbling block.
However, the team somehow managed to maneuver the huge load a few inches to the right so it could arrive on Golden Gate unscathed.
The crowd cheered as it slowly advanced.
The back of the mansion looked slightly embarrassed to be seen in public looking so bedraggled.
Three hours later, we walked to Fulton Street where the Englander House was waiting to be backed into its new location.
Tom Brown, the developer, deserves an award for persevering through the bureaucracy and let's hope he is able to restore the building to a new glory.