TUSTIN : Old House Now Has a New Home

Flanked by motorcycle officers and curious spectators, one of the oldest houses in Tustin inched its way through the heart of town Thursday night in a surreal, slow-moving parade.

"Just think, some people in Tustin are sleeping and they don't even know this is happening," said Cherie Thompson early Friday morning as she and her husband, Jeff, watched their house make its way from 640 W. 1st Street to its new home at 415 W. 6th St.

A developer agreed to give the couple the two-story Victorian Italianate house about a year ago on the condition that they move it to clear the way for a shopping center. Once owned by the sister of the city's founder, Columbus Tustin, the 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom house was most recently used as a law office.

The house has been up on blocks for several weeks, but at 11:30 p.m. Thursday a 12-wheel truck pulled the 150-ton house off the lot, starting a 2 1/2-mile trip that took 10 1/2 hours.

Though city workers removed arms from two traffic signals and arborists sawed a few limbs off trees to make way for the house, it did not escape damage--two broken windows, chipped paint and a few lost shingles.

A crowd of about 60, including the mayor and his wife, turned out to witness the trip. Some spectators walked, some drove and many snapped pictures. Parents brought their children and several teen-agers did the bunny hop on the sidewalk about midnight before fatigue set in. Jeff Thompson videotaped the highlights of the move.

"It's just an experience to watch them save this old house," said Nola Collins, who lives in an 1889 house on A Street with her husband, Russ, and their three children. "I don't know how I'm going to get them up in the morning, but in the long run, it's worth it. They live in an old house and it's good for them to see this one saved."

"In Newport and Laguna, they've got to save the whales," Russ Collins added. "We've got to save the houses."

The journey went fairly smoothly until 5 a.m., when movers hit a snag. The telephone company had not raised the wires high enough for the house to pass under. Police officers put in an emergency call, but as the word spread that it would be at least 90 minutes before the wires were raised, the crowd began to thin. It was not until 10 a.m. Friday that the house actually reached its destination.

While the move itself was difficult, planning for it was not much easier. The event was delayed four times.

"We never imagined there'd be so much work," said Jeff Thompson.

Besides negotiating with the developer, the couple had to get city approval of all plans, complete a structural analysis of the house, demolish an existing house and grade the new lot, and develop the utility tie-in plans. They circulated a petition to drum up neighborhood support, built their own basement and notified people along the route.

But the couple ran into controversy over historic trees along the route, particularly along 6th Street, a 40-foot-wide street barely able to accommodate the 40-foot-wide house.

One of the most troublesome trees was in front of the house of Andy Anderson, who has lived on 6th Street for 35 years. Anderson opposed the plan and posted a sign on his front lawn reading: "Any man can make a house but only God can make a tree."

Anderson insisted that the house should be cut in half to preserve the trees, but the Thompsons said that would add $50,000 to what was an already-expensive move.

Tree specialists waited until the house reached Anderson's home before trimming the avocado tree. Only a few branches had to be pruned, and Anderson said Friday afternoon that the move went better than he had anticipated.

It will be four to six weeks before the Thompsons and their 5 1/2-month-old baby can occupy the house. They must still complete a foundation, hook up utilities and move in.

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