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One of Avalon's oldest homes faced demolition, so it moved to Cape May

One of Avalon's oldest homes faced demolition, so it moved to Cape May

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WEST CAPE MAY — A chaotic day in Cape May unfolded minute-by-minute over a police scanner propped atop a car.

What was once one of the oldest homes in Avalon was being moved from an Egg Harbor Township storage yard to the Victorian shore town, a four-hour-long journey taken on by a South Jersey moving company and seven law-enforcement departments.

“They’re stuck on the power lines near 756 Seashore,” an officer said over static.

A moment later, “There’s a car on Broadway I’m trying to get moved.”

At the foot of the West Cape May bridge, the house’s owner, Adrienne Scharnikow, stood with family members, her Realtor and strangers in anticipation of the home’s arrival.

Scharnikow’s fight to save the 1896 home where she spent summers as a kid began last November after she learned a developer bought the property with plans to raze it and build a bigger home in its place.

She paid the developer $1 for the home and hired moving company S.J. Hauck to disassemble it piece by piece. It sat in storage for more than a year while Scharnikow and her Realtor, Stacey Hutchinson, looked for a place to rebuild it in Cape May.

“It’s been a long project,” said Hutchinson, of deSatnick Real Estate. “The biggest obstacle was finding a lot where the movers could physically move the house to.”

Then came a lengthy permitting process followed by figuring out how, logistically, a massive, three-story house would trek down New Jersey’s coastline.

The answer? Very, very slowly.

About 20 to 25 mph, to be exact.

The moving company got a permit from the New Jersey Department of Transportation and alerted police departments in each town the house passed through.

Three escort vehicles donning huge “Oversize Load” signs were positioned in front of and behind the home, navigating it through Routes 559, 617, 40, 50, 49, 47 and 626.

There were a few unplanned pit stops along the way, and more than a few traffic jams.

At one point, the house was ushered off the road into an empty parking lot after hitting a few tree branches on Woodbine Road. The crew secured a back wall that appeared loose.

“Anybody behind that house wants to get around it. ... My main job is to warn the traffic to move over,” said Chester Shingle, who drove one of the escort trucks.

Two days ago, he traveled the route and measured the width of the roads.

The move prompted a mini-celebration in Cape May, a town known for its historic preservation.

In true South Jersey fashion, the local Wawa gave away free coffee and donuts in honor of the home’s long-awaited arrival. A small viewing party of close family and friends stood at the West Cape May bridge for more than an hour waiting for the wrap-around porch to cross the span. Two more floors will be moved at later dates.

Some at the stakeout were near strangers.

Ben Hernandez, an Avalon homeowner, had not met Scharnikow before Thursday. After learning of her efforts to save the historic home last year, Hernandez reached out to Scharnikow and followed the story.

“It got me upset,” he said. “I remember reading it and how I felt. ... That’s why I’m here today. I’m not missing this.”

And finally, it appeared amid cheers.

With a line of cars behind it, the house headed past the Promenade and toward its final resting place: 1306 Texas Ave.

“I’m going to cry,” Scharnikow said as she held up her iPhone camera. “It looked like a sunrise.”

Contact: 609-272-7258 Twitter @AvalonZoppo

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