NORWAY – Building mover James Merry of Scarborough had only two words when asked how he’d move the historic Gingerbread House.

“Very carefully,” he said.

A task force looking into moving the 1855 Evans-Cummings House, more commonly known as the Gingerbread House, asked Merry to submit a bid. He bid $25,000.

The principals of C’s Inc., owners of the building and publishers of the Sun Journal and Advertiser-Democrat, agreed not to raze the vacant, dilapidated structure while efforts are ongoing to save it. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“All this estimate work is part of what the Costellos want to show that this effort is valid and credible,” said Andrea Burns, president of Norway Downtown and a member of the task force. “So it’s step by step by step.”

The task force was formed to investigate the possibility of moving the 85-foot-long house from behind the Sun Media Group building at the intersection of Pikes Hill and Main streets to a nearby site at Butters Park.

Burns said the building would be sited parallel to Main Street and set back near the dam. A three-dimensional analysis is being created to see how it would work.

For 77-year-old Merry, who has been in the business of moving houses since he was 15, the possibility that he might be asked to move this historic building is all in a day’s work.

“All I need is myself and two other people,” said Merry, who co-owns James G. Merry Building Movers Inc. with his sons Stephen and Joshua Merry.

For people who have seen the mammoth building with its delicate “gingerbread” trim, it is hard to envision how the 3,460-square-foot, two-story, wood-framed building could be moved at all, much less in one piece. But Merry said he would move it without cutting a piece of trim.

“This guy is the best. He’s proven,” said Burns of Merry, who’s moved everything from 25 houses in Madawaska and historic homes in Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, N.H., to his most recent move – the brick, two-story, 95-ton Cushing’s Point House in South Portland.

“They are always calm. It blew me away. They’re such professionals,” said Kathy DiPhilippo, director of the South Portland Historical Society, which hired Merry to move the Cushing house last month.

“We had no experience. None in moving houses of any kind. We went into this blind,” said DiPhilippo of the society’s plan to move the house to Bug Light Park in South Portland where it will be renovated for use as society headquarters.

The job was not without its snags, she said.

“A wheel went down in a hole. They were very calm,” DiPhilippo said.

DiPhilippo said another major building mover in Maine refused the job because the building was brick and heavy.

“It’s so complex that it’s hard for a lay person to see how they did that,” she said.

When the job was complete, DiPhilippo said all she could say was, “I’m so glad we went with them.”

Merry said despite existing damage to the Gingerbread House, he expects to move it whole.

“Once we get started, it won’t fall apart any further,” Merry said.

If the task force contracts with Merry to do the job, the move will be done by creating what Merry called a “homemade low bed.”

Holes will be put in the foundation and steel stringers will be slung from one side to the other, and then two long stringers will be strung the length of the building with about 8 feet hanging out.

“The cellar will be cribbed. It’s just like a little kid playing with blocks,” Merry said. “Then you can put anything on top for weight. You make yourself a road so you can drive off.”

Merry said he expects the building to become a showplace for the western entrance to downtown.

“That thing will take the cake,” he said.

“You may spend a little more money, but in the end you have value,” Burns said. “You’ll never create another Gingerbread House.”



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