Serendipity moved – but not all the way to its new home
….WITH SLIDE SHOW
Matyiko moved Serendipity off the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, Jan. 15,
but not as far as he wanted to, and not as far as project general
manager Mike Price kept telling onlookers the house would go.
Through a long day of what appeared to be challenges for the crew
charged with saving the iconic beach house, Price kept saying,
“It’s going down the road.”
But at 5:10 p.m., with darkness closing in and the house perched on the
edge of Highway 12 in north Rodanthe, the crew’s day-long
frenetic activity ceased.
“The law stopped us,” Price said, noting
that the 9
a.m. to 2 p.m. moving time for which he had obtained permits had long
since expired. Price had received extensions during the day, but he
couldn’t extend daylight.
The plan was to move the beach house – which starred, along
Richard Gere and Diane Lane, in the 2008 movie, “Nights in
Rodanthe” – about 2,500 feet down Highway 12 to a
by the ocean where it would be in less danger of being swept away by
The crew from Expert House Movers scrambled all day while other crews
from Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, Charter Cable, and the Dare
County Sheriff’s Office stood by to move power lines and stop
traffic for the 45 minutes to an hour the house was expected to be on
There also was that crowd of 60 or more sidewalk superintendents that
started forming early in the day and stood in the chilly air, mostly
wanting to know, and frequently asking, when, exactly, the house would
move from its endangered setting at the very edge of the surf.
At the end of the day, Price was able to say,
“It’s saved now. It’s not going nowhere
By which he meant Serendipity was far enough up the sloping beach that
the soaring structure, now cut loose from the 14-feet-deep pilings that
have seen it though many a fierce storm, would not be going into the
It was a conclusion far from locked in when crews showed up at about 8
a.m. for what was planned to be the final move. They had spent the day
Thursday putting huge beams under the 85,000-pound house and placing
cribbing timbers under it to take its weight while it was lowered to
Matyiko’s trailer for the move.
But, even though crews built up a dune around the ocean side of the
house before they left Thursday night and Price spent half the night
moving sand trying to keep dry beach under the house, the ocean had its
way. Daylight showed that the cribbing timbers nearest the beach were
leaning crazily, their solid footing of Thursday having been robbed by
the relentless surf.
And that meant the crew had to get some new sand under them and to take
them down and re-stack them before the house was going anywhere.
“I hope this isn’t the last night in
Rodanthe,” Matyiko said this morning.
But then he jumped into a front-end loader and started moving sand from
the big pile on the highway side of the house to the ocean side. His
crew pitched in as well and launched into a level of activity that
would be an object lesson for anybody who is thinking of going into the
house moving business for the big bucks.
Matyiko has been called the “Red Adair” of house
a reference to the famous fighter of oil well fires. His company,
Expert House Movers, gets called in on the really tough jobs. They
moved the 208-feet-high Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999, laying waste the
prediction of many skeptics.
And he was all over the job Friday, running the front-end loader,
wrestling the 40- to 50-pound wooden cribbing timbers around, shoveling
sand by hand, dragging chains. By day’s end his light gray
sweatshirt and blue jeans looked like he’d been playing
in the mud. And Matyiko’s not ancient, but he’s not
Generation X either.
If his pace for a full nine-hour day without an observed lunch break
doesn’t discourage you, though, here’s how you move
house: You slide some really big steel I-beams under it, from end to
end. Then you slide some smaller, but still fairly huge, beams in over
those, from side to side. Then you put some hydraulic jacks under the
beams, and move them upward, building crib work around the jacks by
placing short but heavy timbers in a crisscrossed pattern.
The idea is to get the crib work right up under the house, and then
jack the building up off whatever it’s sitting on, then add
more level of timbers. Next you let the house down on the timbers and
get it good and level. Then you jack it up again, enough to slide a
layer of timbers out, and slowly lower it in that manner until it rests
on a truck bed followed by several sets of dollies with huge wheels.
In the case of a house like Serendipity, you have to chainsaw the
pilings right at the at the top, right under where the house sits on
them, to get them out of the way once the house is secure on the
cribbing. And also, you have to keep the sand under the oceanside
cribbing solid until you can drag the house off the beach.
That’s what Matyiko’s crew did before the eyes of
onlookers yesterday. But when it came time to drag the house
away, all they got was wheels spinning in the sand. They had laid steel
plates on the sand in front of the big tractor that was to be the
move’s motive force, and it appeared that the plan had been
pull the truck onto the plates with a huge four-wheel drive front end
when pedal went to metal, the wheels on the tractor, and on the
front-end loader, spun in sand. It did move Serendipity enough to send
a flock of pigeons into the air off the roof, but they circled and
lighted, not to be disturbed again for an hour or so.
The crew scurried to get the iron plates into new position, and
ultimately lifted the tractor onto one of them with a large power
shovel. Then the house moved about five feet, and a huge
went up from the crowd.
Then there was more positioning of plates and more short moves, until
time ran out. Price said the sheriff’s office became worried
there wasn’t enough daylight left to get the house down the
highway safely. But movers concluded it was far enough off the beach to
escape the undermining high tide problems of the previous night.
Resumption of the effort was set for 10 a.m. on Monday.
The onlookers, many of whom hung on grimly for the duration, shifting
from foot to foot in the chilly air, told each other Serendipity
stories and stories about beach houses that have collapsed into the
waves. They came from the neighborhood, from up and down the island,
and from distant points on the mainland.
Scott and Penny Haynes said they drove seven hours down from Roanoke,
Va., though in truth they also planned a short vacation at her
parents’ house in Avon. They’ve been taken with the
for a number of years, though it always struck Penny as
“It amazes me all the storms it has come through,”
Scott said, “and it’s still standing.”
The Scotts had been down to Buxton for the move of the Hatteras
lighthouse, and they were drawn to the Serendipity move by the
involvement in it of the company that moved the lighthouse.
Tony Bisantz, who is retired from the army, said he was watching the
move as a neighbor who has been following the Serendipity story
“every time they close the road.” It was
to the unhappiness of some neighbors with the way tides from heavy
storms would wash across the driveways of Serendipity and some of its
neighbors and shut off highway access to the northern end of the
That and other problems ultimately caused Dare County authorities to
order Serendipity’s owners to tear the house down or move it.
Instead the owners sold it to Ben Huss and his wife, Debbie, of Newton,
N.C., who mingled with the crowd and watched yesterday’s
“This was a problem child,” Bisantz said.
“If they get it out of here, it will be good.”
Bisantz said he lives a few hundred yards down the highway and behind
an office building on the other side. “It’ll be
about the time my children pay off the mortgage,” he said.
Bunny and Bob Lauder, who live in northern Virginia near Quantico but
have a house in nearby Salvo, said they’ve always wanted to
“I’ve often thought,
‘Wouldn’t it be nice
to sit on the deck and look at the water?’” Bob
said. But he said the couple has watched the beach erode from about 400
feet out from the house to a point where water lapped under the deck
even at low tide. They wouldn’t like that, he said.
He noted that they have counted condemnation stickers on 11 houses
along the stretch of beach where Serendipity anchored the northern end.
Most were for septic tank issues, which have been remedied.
But there was talk in the crowd that the house next to Serendipity,
which appears almost as severely threatened, sold recently for the fire
sale price of $169,000. And that had Scott Hise, of Smithfield, Va.,
expressing interest in similar properties to Marsha M. Brown, of Marsha
M. Brown & Company, who sold Serendipity to the Husses.
“For that kind of price, I’d snap one up in a
heartbeat,” Hise told another onlooker. He said he owns
“five or six” properties in the area.
Brown spent most of the day at the site, as did her daughter, Bonnie
Brown Rowe, who will handle rental of the house for the Husses. Bonnie
said she already has booked the house for two weeks in May to women
from Arizona and West Virginia, both of whom were enchanted by the
She said the West Virginia woman rented it in May for a November
anniversary. “She wanted to get into it as soon as she
could,” she said. “Her thing was that Ben and
had given this house a second chance, just like the second chance in
Frank and Pat Clark, who live in Kansas City and have a house in Avon,
came to watch the move because, Frank said, “It’s
You gotta get all of the events.”
He then pitched Avon’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade,
which Pat Clark said is an all-kazoo event.
Dave Kurtz, who works at a kiteboarding resort not far from the site
gave a reason for attending that one suspects would have rung true for
most of those there.
“I’m here for a little entertainment,” he
“There’s not that much high drama here in
And, he added, “It’s good to see an ending to the
without the thing falling in the ocean.”
Click Here To View Slide Show