Shelton House moves, begins new life
by Tim Delaney
Jul 25, 2014 | 2779 views | 0 0 comments | 139 139 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Delaney photo
The Shelton House at the corner of Empresario Street and U.S. Highway 77 begins its trek to a new location at 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 23.
Tim Delaney photo The Shelton House at the corner of Empresario Street and U.S. Highway 77 begins its trek to a new location at 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 23.
Tim Delaney photo
People began gathering early Wednesday morning, July 23, to watch the Shelton mansion being moved to a new location.
Tim Delaney photo People began gathering early Wednesday morning, July 23, to watch the Shelton mansion being moved to a new location.
REFUGIO – House mover Lilly Wilkinson said pinpointing when a move happens is like a pregnant woman giving birth.

“You never know when the baby is going to come,” she said.

Her company, Ram House Movers Inc. of Sinton, moved the historic Shelton House in Refugio on Wednesday, July 23.

Shelton House owner, D.L. Johnson, followed the move in his pickup and on foot like an expectant father.

Although Johnson said he was a nervous wreck, he was comfortable with knowing he had professional movers with great reputations to deliver.

The Sinton company moved the 1870s era Bruhl Paul Johnson House in summer 2012 to a new location in Rockport to serve as a history center.

The Shelton House was originally a bungalow built in 1912. The second story was added in 1928, making most of the house’s first floor more than 100 years old.

“I like the challenge of moving them intact even though it raises my stress level and causes me to lose sleep at night,” Wilkinson said.

To help that stress, she subcontracted with some of the best known movers in Texas: Oney House Moving Inc. of Marshall and Dodson House Moving of San Antonio.

Once pulled off its lot at 809 S. Alamo St., at 9 a.m., the powerful tractor driven by Wilkinson’s husband, Donald Wilkinson, inched the house forward, making a right turn heading north on U.S. Highway 77.

Every turn was excruciating to watch, and after the first turn on U.S. Highway 77, a crowd of people yelled and whistled.

The impromptu parade watched by out-of-towners, as well as Refugio residents, continued north at a turtle’s pace. Its immediate destination was two blocks north.

“Five miles per hour is too fast,” said Pablo Benevides with Time Warner Cable. “Two or three mph is more likely.”

Then a left turn on West Ymbacion Street required the removal of a pole light so the house could make a tight left turn.

The house, sitting on hydraulic wheels with what looked like jetliner tires could make unusual maneuvers to execute turns one wouldn’t think possible.

The crews took a 30-minute break once the house was on Ymbacion Street. Already, a couple of hours had passed since the house began its journey to a new life.

A car could make the trip from where the Shelton House was to its new location in less than five minutes.

Once down Ymbacion, crews had to take pole saws to trim trees out of the right of way.

Another left turn on Power Street took a lot of maneuvering, but the turn was made and the house was on its final leg of the journey headed south toward the corner of Power and Federacion streets, its new home, just three blocks away.

All along the way, an army of people aided the move: AEP, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, foundation experts, movers, Refugio Police Department, San Patricio Constables, Texas Department of Transportation and many others, like A G Hill Power Inc. of Corpus Christi.

“It’s kind of difficult getting the lines down. Don’t damage anything, and get it back the way it was,” said A G Hill foreman Paul Sanchez, who had a crew of six.

Chris Cruthfield, with AEP, said the house was 40 feet high, and most power lines would have to be lowered. Some could be raised just enough for it to slip under.

Headed south on Power Street, the house’s porch was occupied by Lilly Wilkinson wielding a pole chain saw to trim away any limbs in the way.

The 40-foot high house was wider at about 50 feet, so a lot of limbs had to be cut.

Moe Motaghi, owner of Snappy Foods, a convenience store chain, opted to give the house away if whoever wanted it would pay for the moving.

Motaghi’s store will be constructed at the now empty corner of U.S. Highway 77 and Empresario Street.

Motaghi said he was more interested in preserving the house for historical reasons than tearing it down.

After several interested parties made inquiries about the house, D.L. Johnson, who is refurbishing the old Whitlow mansion in Refugio, took Motaghi up on the deal.

“I plan on living in (the Shelton House),” Johnson said. He and his wife Ann will live there until the Whitlow house is refurbish on the same block.

Johnson said he has a big family and he loves historic homes.

Spectators all had something to say about the move.

“Fascinating. I was in it a couple of times when it was an antique store,” said Steven Reynolds, who lives in Taft.

“It’s sad to think they were going to tear it down,” Reynolds added. He had brought a folding chair and bottled water and set up an observation point directly across the street from the Shelton House.

“I just love these old houses, and the town is full of them,” he said.

Not far away, Bonnie McLain was ready to watch the move.

“I’m glad it is being moved. I knew the Rayburns (former owners). She moved to Corpus. I am glad the house is staying in town. I have never seen a house like this moved,” McLain said.

Tony Haney also was watching from across the street early Wednesday morning.

“I never went in the house,” he said.

Haney was worried about the narrow street (Ymbacion) the house would have to traverse on the move.

“My mother did washing, and I helped her. My mother used to cook part time for Isabell Shelton,” said Mildred Shaw, who also was among the growing crowd.

“I think instead of tearing it down, it’s better to move it,” Shaw added.

Sandy Bankhead said she’d had friends from Big Spring and Dallas down at her home in Refugio earlier in the week, and they wanted photographs from the move.

“So I am down for the photos,” Bankhead said.

“I think it is wonderful that the house is going to be saved. I was in the house many years ago when it was a flea market,” Bankhead said.

The house changed many times in its history, including hosting doctors’ offices, flea market, antique shop and a bed and breakfast.

Eventually, the Shelton House was on its new lot and raised so a foundation would be built underneath it. By the time it was raised the day was gone and well into the evening.

Ed Sample, a foundation expert from Corpus Christi, said the pier and beam foundation would be improved at the house’s new site.

Plans also were to move the Shelton House garage to a pad next to the Shelton House’s new location fairly soon.

And Lilly Wilkinson, who was born in San Antonio but grew up in Sinton, said she is thinking about her company’s next move: moving the Petra Kenedy Vela historic house in San Patricio County to Kingsville.

Petra was the wife of Mifflin Kenedy, partner to Capt. Richard King (King Ranch).

Refugio residents and out-of-towners continued to follow the house all the way to its new home.

To them, a piece of Refugio history was saved and a new life was given it.

Many held their mouths agape and were amazed at the spectacle. Power Street resident Bob Koonce was one of them.

“Nothing this big has happened in Refugio since H-E-B installed shelves.”
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