The Move to Ames

One of the most important considerations affecting the preservation of the Stencil House was whether or not it could be successfully relocated from its original home in Wayne County Tennessee to the Ames Plantation. Standing over 18 feet tall and with a width of over 35 feet, one thing was for certain; the house was going to have to become a lot smaller before it could be moved.  The move was also complicated by miles of very narrow rural roadway and a structure which was far from structurally sound. 

Removal of the front and back porches was necessary in order to reduce the overall width of the structure to a barely manageable 20 feet. The porches, which had been enclosed to expand the home's living area at some point in the past, were in a state of total decay.  The ceilings and roof were collapsed from decades of rainwater induced rot.  A tractor was utilized to remove the porch remains thus reducing the overall width of the building.

In order to address the height issue, the entire upstairs of the home was removed.  Unlike the porches, which were too decomposed to be replaced as part of the restoration process, the upstairs was disassembled in a manner allowing for reconstruction with each component being returned to its original location.  Each board, rafter, etc. was numbered and photographed before removal to facilitate reassembly once the Stencil House was at its new home.

After the roof was removed a temporary cover of plywood and two layers of heavy duty tarp were installed.  Each end of the house was reinforced with cross beams of wood to help tie the areas on either side of the fireplace openings together.  Wooden channels were placed vertically along the length of the house to provide tracks for the metal cables used to secure the building to steel support beams.

The first leg of the trip, consisting of six miles of narrow and hilly rural roads, presented a formidable challenge.  Steep hills approaching 30 degrees of incline tested the cables securing the house to the transport beams.  The 20 x 50 foot structure was too massive for the narrow roadway.  In several tight spots widening of the road was required along with the removal of a few trees.  It was only through the cooperation of Hardin County Highway Commissioner, Paul Blount, that the move was possible.

Once the obstacles encountered during the first few miles of the trip were overcome, the balance of the trip was smooth sailing.  The route took the house along highways 128, 64, and 57, around the town of Savannah and across the Tennessee River on the bridge at Pickwick Dam.  Traveling east for a total of almost 100 miles the house traveled through the towns of Ramer and Middleton before arriving at its final destination, the Ames Plantation Heritage Village.

Once at Ames the Stencil House was positioned among the preexisting historic structures in the Heritage Village.  Immediately upon arrival the original roof support system was reconstructed.  A metal roof was also installed utilizing roofing donated to the project by H & H Metal Products of Savannah, Tennessee.  For a total cost of approximately $10,000 and three weeks of intense labor the Stencil House was saved from nearly certain loss to the elements and vandals.  Secure at its new home, the Stencil House waited six long years before receiving much needed restoration work.  In the summer of 2008 work began to further stabilize the physical structure bringing the historic home one step closer to its original condition.