Historic McDermott house jacked up, moved across South Street

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2002

Residents watch as Kosciusko House Movers pull the McDermott house across South Street and up a ramp to its new home Wednesday.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[06/13/02]More than 70 people watched Wednesday as a historic three-story house was moved across South Street, saving it from destruction and making the new owners happy.

The 97-year-old McDermott House was in the path of a planned expansion of First Presbyterian Church, which needed more parking space.

However, after the church bought the house and land under it two years ago, a permit to raze the 7,600-square-foot structure was denied by the Vicksburg Board of Architectural Review.

Compromise followed. The church deeded the house itself to Nelda Sampey, a board member, who deeded it to Cheryl Pemberton, effective with the meticulous three-day transfer across the street.

“We’ve been working toward this for well over a year,” said the Rev. Steve Bryant, pastor of First Presbyterian. “It became a really nice compromise because we needed the space and the parking.” The church has been on the corner of Cherry and South for nearly 100 years.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to see a house saved that was supposed to be demolished,” said Sampey’s husband, Malcolm. “I don’t put a value on that.”

During the negotiations, three stays of demolition were executed by the city, citing, in part, the home’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The move itself was accomplished by Kosciusko Home Movers, and not without painstaking preparations.

Work began on the house in November when the bricks were stripped from the exterior with a backhoe.

Salvageable bricks were stacked and taken to the home’s new lot, sold to Pemberton last June by developer Robert Rosenthal who owns the historic Beck Home next door.

Lifting of the home began three weeks ago, when the shell of the house was raised by a hydraulic jacking system and placed onto a foundation of wood timbers and steel beams.

“We had to load where it would lift the house up uniform and also keep it from stressing the structure,” said John Williams, owner of Kosciusko Home Movers, who estimated the house to weigh 12.5 tons.

“Everything has gone relatively well,” he said after the move.

The move included crossing a raised concrete area by way of a ramp, constructed from steel plates and 6-by-8 timbers covered with plywood.

Pemberton, from Knoxville, Tenn., learned about the home last April while visiting Sampey. It’s hers, essentially, for the approximate $40,000 cost of the move plus the cost of the lots and renovations to come.

“I’m absolutely elated,” said Pemberton, who cheered once the house made it onto the lot. “I wasn’t worried about the move but everything that comes now.”

Major renovations needed, Pemberton said, include reroofing, rewiring, plumbing, insulating, reflooring, ceiling repairs and installing heating and air conditioning. In addition, large gaps left in the house by the chimneys, which were dismantled before the move, need to be replastered.

Still, she feels drawn to the project.

“The second she (Sampey) showed me the house, I said I’m supposed to be here,'” Pemberton said. “Every time I go in, it feels like home.”

Pemberton estimated she will move into the house with her daughter, Sarah, 10, within six months.

Entergy and BellSouth also cooperated to make the move possible by rerouting power lines and lowering telephone lines to the ground to avoid damage. No customers were reported without power or telephones during the process. Some customers of Vicksburg Video were without cable service briefly.

The McDermott House was built in 1905 for Abe and Emma Brown, and was notable at the time because it actually included electrical wiring. The McDermotts bought the home in 1927 and lived in it until 1983 when it was sold to Harvey Smith, who used it as a beauty salon.