House Lift

Bill Youngblood always knew he wanted to take on the challenge of moving a house. So, when a historic Spring Hill place went up for sale at a real estate exchange meeting, “I bought it within 10 minutes, ” he says.

“We had lost our Bay house during Hurricane Katrina, and I wanted our new one to really feel old. Well, the only way to get the true sense of an old home is to have an old house, and this one was absolutely perfect.”

It was ideal, indeed – except that the cottage was situated on McGregor Avenue, in Mobile, and the Youngbloods would need to ship it to their Point Clear lot. “I loved the house so much that I bought it without knowing if it could even be moved, ” he laughs.

As it turned out, transporting the house required splitting it in half, removing the roof and moving the pieces through five different jurisdictions: Mobile, Prichard, Spanish Fort, Daphne and Fairhope. Each city required its own escort detail, which would hand off the caravan at the city line.

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DEEP-ROOTED IN SPRING HILL

Originally built in the 1800s on McGregor Avenue, near where The Fresh Market now sits, the Greek Revival cottage has called many lots home. In the 1930s, it was transferred to the other side of McGregor, opposite the Country Club of Mobile.

The cottage was later moved back across the avenue to the site where the Youngbloods found it. From there, it took its big voyage, traveling through Mobile, over the Cochrane Bridge, and onto the Causeway to arrive where it stands today.

ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

Once the deconstructed pieces arrived at the Youngbloods’ land, it took two days to get the structure down the curved, tree-lined driveway. Each section of the building measured 16 feet, while the width of the driveway spanned only 16 feet and 2 1/2 inches. “You can imagine the amount of patience this required, ” Bill says.

With the home finally in position, the yearlong renovation process began.

“The original house, while charming, was very closed in. I was worried I wouldn’t spend any time in it, since I’m claustrophobic, ” says Bill’s wife, Susan. “After the house was delivered, it was just sitting there in pieces, waiting to be put back together. I looked at it and said, ‘Why don’t we put a 12-foot-wide hallway right down the middle?'”

For Susan, it was the perfect way to modernize and open up the house’s floor plan. Since the roof was already removed, they also decided to affix a second floor, adding two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The couple worked with builder Paul Smith and architect Douglas Kearley to design renovations that fit their Bay lifestyle.

The Youngbloods found unique ways to keep the fully gutted house feeling old. To build the new spiral staircase, master craftsman Craig Mullins salvaged wood beams from the house’s original ceiling joists. They also worked with a consultant for Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg to create the beautiful antique heart pine finish of the hardwood floors. “He suggested we use a tung oil, ” Bill says. “The result was a beautiful patina surface, which looks authentically old.”

Once the place was move-in ready, Susan paired antique furniture with a crisp, neutral color palette to reflect the home’s heritage and backdrop. Now that the long haul is complete, the Youngbloods can simply enjoy their new, old house and its idyllic scenery on Mobile Bay.


Vanessa McGee

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