“Someone should make a list of all the houses that have been moved around in Dawson, showing where they used to be and where they are now.”
This isn’t exactly what was said to me last Saturday, June 26, but it captures the gist of the conversation we were having as we watched yet another building relocation.
It was the second time the house had been moved. It once belonged to Dr. J. D. Lachappelle. It was originally located in the north end of town, and was moved to Eighth Avenue at some point that no one watching could recall.
At one stage it had had a nice front porch on its basic box structure and the door on the second story was evidence of a balcony leading off an upstairs room.
On Saturday, Donnie Flynn and his crew, along with new owner, Jeremy Lancaster, turned the house around and very carefully hauled it up to the top of the avenue, around a very sharp corner, and down a hill so precipitous that the Klondike Visitors Association stopped using it as part of the route for the Outhouse Race quite a few years ago.
Lancaster had been preparing the new foundation pad for days, and the tipping of one gravel truck while dumping in-fill was a sure indication of just how tricky angling the house onto its new pad was going to be.
Lancaster had widened the passage where Eighth ends and curves down to Queen Street, so that the house could take the inner side of the corner. This made it easier to miss the electrical, telephone, and fibre-optic cables that also curved around the bend on the other side of the street. The lines come down the hill from the satellite receivers further up, just about where the house had to be turned to descend.
A small audience of residents, who had heard equipment working for days, knew what was about to happen. The finale included hand signals and barely audible shouting back and forth, which enabled the crew to position the house metre by metre. It was angled so that it made the corner, touching nothing, not even that lonely birch tree at the top edge of the lot.
Then it had to be inched down the hill, with one loader guiding it from the front and another providing both motive power and an anchor on the other end.
With motion halted, soap slickened boards were wedged under the big tires on the special trailer, and, using the larger loader as a fulcrum, the whole assembly was made to slide sideways, much as the George Black ferry slid into the river from its greased cradle in the spring. Then the house was ready to be pushed into its new home.