The landscape of the Bishop Arts District is changing quickly — tiny historic Craftsman homes by the dozens are being razed for apartment complexes, half-million dollar condos, and five-story mixed-use developments going up. One developer, once demonized by the community for their rudimentary design out of the gate, just won major Brownie points with the help of Rogers Jr. House Moving.
Developer Alamo Manhattan offered a 900-square-foot home built in 1925 at 231 W. 7th St. for free to whomever would move it. At least three groups dug through details to attempt to put a deal together, but only Tony Rogers Jr of Rogers Jr House Movers and his talented team managed to pull it off. Leave it to the professionals — this company has been moving houses for 70 years. The complex move took place in the wee hours last night while most of us slept. “Just us and the drunks on the road!” joked Tony.
They spent all day Wednesday preparing the house — fretting the rain might pick up again at any moment. “If the insulation gets wet, it’s trash. We’d have to rip it all out.” The top of the roof was removed to fit the house under power lines and a freeway underpass. The house skirting was removed. Utilities lines were severed. The back porch was demolished.
But they’d already put weeks of work into the move. It was a rush deal — they sent their letter of intent to Alamo Manhattan over Christmas, agreeing to the terms: If the house wasn’t moved by Jan. 15 it could be demolished.
The home sat next door to Ten Bells Tavern, across from the Oak Cliff Social Club. The developer needs the lot for their work trailer as they construct their massive project across the street. They’d considered setting up shop in the old house but it just wasn’t going to work for their purposes. It had to go asap.
These permits usually take weeks to go through City Hall. The applications were submitted just before New Years with plans to move by the 12th. With too much mud, the movers can’t work. The delay to the 18th was as late as they could push it. It was now or never.
Tony Rodgers moved to Dallas with his family in the 1940s from Oklahoma. He’d met a house mover who was going to Dallas and joined the team. Soon after, he started his own business. Tony Rogers Jr. grew up in West Dallas, just south of Singleton near what’s now Trinity Groves. He took over the family business and now his son, Tony Rogers III, helps. Hopefully his son, Tony Rogers IV, will follow in their footsteps. Tony Rogers Senior, who passed last March, would be proud.
“You can’t build this kind of quality these days,” Rogers Jr. said. “That weathered wood is irreplaceable.” They do this because they know the value of these old buildings. Two by fours aren’t actually two inches by four inches anymore, and trees are rapidly grown and harvested, so the wood isn’t as dense or as strong as the old-growth wood used to build these old houses.
Their bread and butter is moving things like portable buildings, and old homes within about a 50 mile radius of Dallas. Most notably, they recently moved the historic Pace House in Garland. It moved just a half mile from city-owned land near downtown to Garland’s first historically designated neighborhood, the Travis College Hill Historic District.
Whether the house is moved a half mile or 10 miles, the distance doesn’t change the price of the move much. It’s around $20,000 to $30,000 just for the prep work and permitting, depending on the house size and complexity. Any road closures, power line lifting, or cross-jurisdiction police escorts will add to the cost, but comparatively it doesn’t add much more.
When the news came out about the house in the Bishop Arts District, Tony received calls from friends and colleagues. They have a waiting list of clients looking for various, specific sized old homes, but this one didn’t quite fit the bill for any of them. One client considered moving the house 120 miles, but couldn’t agree to the risky terms. Luckily the Rogers team owned a lot in West Dallas. And luckily they also have a rolodex of foundation guys and home builders to put the project together in less than 3 weeks.
The home is balanced on 2 steel beams attached to four sets of wheels. the truck connects to the ends of the beams to pull the house down the road. It traveled down Davis Street and Sylvan Avenue to it’s destination in West Dallas beginning around 2 a.m. “The businesses around here said they needed the street for parking. So we’ll just wait till they close,” Tony quipped.
The roof’s in decent shape but it’ll need replacing soon enough. They’ll probably add a second story on the back while they’re at it. The interior’s in decent shape with high ceilings and most of the original architectural details. It will be placed on the lot in the light of day and as soon as it’s in position, according to their submitted drawings, they’ll raise the house a bit more and pour the foundation underneath. A tricky process but they’ve got it down to an art by now.
We’re thrilled this house was saved and will live on to shelter another family.