Out of town travelers on N.C. 89 west of Mount Airy bright and early Saturday morning encountered what they might have considered a strange sight:
A house perched atop a large hauler that was headed out the driveway of North Surry High School, an event that literally stopped traffic.
It wasn’t some bold heist executed at daybreak to steal school property which was under way — especially with Surry deputies on the scene — but an operation involving the latest house to roll off the assembly line for the Greater Mount Airy Area Habitat for Humanity.
The structure had been assembled in recent months by local building-trade students through a Habitat partnership, and reached the stage where it could be moved to a new, permanent home at the corner of Willow and Taylor streets in Mount Airy.
Under normal transportation conditions, this would be an uneventful trip of only a few miles.
But when moving a house, such a trek takes on “huge” proportions, as described by local Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Betty Ann Collins.
Upon leaving North Surry at about 6:45 a.m., a time when roadways were less crowded, the house transport was escorted by deputies who stopped traffic at key locations and were joined by Mount Airy police when the unusual caravan reached the city limits.
The only rough spot was turning in at the upper end of Taylor Street to reach the lot where the structure would be placed, which personnel of Oldham House Movers, LLC, of Seagrove quickly overcame.
“When they started down Taylor Street, (they) had to back the house up because of a fire hydrant,” Collins said.
“And they did have to do some tree trimming and some more backing up, and boom, the house was coming down the street.”
Soon it was safely on the lot, a process closely monitored by neighbors in lawn chairs across Taylor Street.
“I was totally confident because this was the fourth house they have moved for North Surry and Habitat,” Collins said of all those built through the Habitat/schools partnership. The first went to a location in Holly Springs.
“It was a huge team effort,” Collins said of Saturday’s operation, which included lunch provided by Subway.
Seeing such a project reach fruition is “fulfilling,” according to David Brown, chief of technology for Surry County schools, who came to the Taylor Street site mainly because his small grandson wanted to see the house being moved. The child seemed fascinated with the heavy equipment used.
But Brown also spoke from the viewpoint of someone involved with Surry County Schools, about the educational opportunity provided to local students through the Habitat partnership.
“To know that they have this skill set when they graduate to help them in a career, that’s very fulfilling,” Brown said of the carpentry and other trades learned.
He, too, was “very confident” that Saturday’s house-moving would be mostly seamless.
“These guys do this for a living,” Brown said of the Oldham crew.
Tim Oldham, who is part of the operation along with his dad, said the biggest challenge with such moves is not having to negotiate streets or highways, but actually getting the structure onto the property itself.
The company moves 30 to 40 buildings a year, Oldham said.
Collins said foundation work will be done over the next couple of weeks or so, paving the way for crews to come in and finish the house to ready it for future occupant George Mills and his three children.
Mills was on the scene Saturday and watched anxiously as the house was being leveled into place.
“Oh, man, I was apprehensive and was out of breath the entire time,” said Mills, who is elated over the opportunity the Habitat for Humanity program is providing so the family can move from a present housing situation that is crowded. “I am pretty excited.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.