A wet wind tugged at Tom Repsher's umbrella as he watched his log cabin, known as the Historic Parker House, being moved on wheels from Jefferson to Fairmount avenues in Towson late Wednesday.
Police cars blocked the 400 block of Jefferson Avenue, a rainswept street off Towsontown Boulevard, while movers and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. workers waited for a nearby day care center to close for the evening, before they coordinated the roughly 90-minute trek down Jefferson to Towsontown and up to 410 Fairmount Ave.
Area residents and curious passers-by lined both sides of the street to watch the process of relocating a house.
"I've never seen one," said Teresa Myers, 52, who lives in the nearby Virginia Towers apartments.
It was a first, too, for Repsher, immediate past president and now senior vice president of Daft McCune Walker, a land-planning company with offices in Towson and Frederick. The house is located on DMW property and is owned by Repsher, who recently sold the property to Evergreene Cos., to be developed as Towson Mews, a subdivision of 35 four-story townhouses with two-car garages. Construction is expected to start next spring or summer, Repsher said.
When asked if he had any idea of what the overall move would cost him, he laughed and said, "Yeah. I have an idea, but I won't tell you. People would think I'm crazy."
In fact, most neighbors were complimentary of Repsher, 67. They said they are glad he worked closely with Baltimore County to find a new home nearby for the Civil War-era house, built by freed slaves in a still largely black neighborhood, rather than tearing down a piece of history in East Towson, within sight of the new Cinemark theaters in the fast-growing downtown area.
"This is my favorite little house in Towson," said Eddie Campbell, 70, also a Virginia Towers resident. He said he passes the house daily when he walks his pet chihuahua, Paco.
"I admire it every day," Campbell said.
Myers said she would miss the house at its old location, but doesn't mind walking a little farther to see it.
"At least they saved it and didn't knock it down," she said. "That's a blessing."
"It's got a lot of history," said Renee Smith, 58, a resident of Lennox Avenue, which intersects Jefferson.
"I think it's exciting," said April Goldring, who lives near the intersection of Jefferson and Towsontown. "It's good to see that they're keeping that house intact and in East Towson, where it belongs."
Her father, Richard Goldring, 74, a lifelong East Towson resident, wasn't too thrilled about Repsher's plans for 35 townhouses on the site.
"That's what I don't like, but that's what the guy wanted," he said. "But he's not going far. Best to him."
Repsher said he bought the house — built roughly between 1868 and 1887 — as an investment. A resident of Fenwick Island in Delaware, he said he has owned the house for about 10 years and lives there three nights a week while working. He said the 1,000-square-foot, two-story structure, 23 feet wide by 32 feet long, was rehabbed in 2004 to 2005. It now has two bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a sitting room, a living room/dining area, a steep staircase, cedar shingle siding and its original floors, as well as new heating and air-conditioning, electricity and plumbing.
"It was a good investment," Repsher said. "It's like owning a boat. You keep having to sink money into it. But I've enjoyed it. It would have been a shame not to save and preserve it. We could have developed around it, but I think this is the best thing."
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks agreed.
"I think we should do whatever we can to preserve old structures in downtown Towson," said Marks, who represents the area. "East Towson is a gem of a neighborhood."
And Marks said he looks forward to townhouses there.
"That's going to be a nice project," he said. "I think it will actually help cushion the community from some of the commercial ones."
In recent weeks, while the house was being prepped for the move, Repsher said he has been living at the Residence Inn, a hotel in Hunt Valley. He said he expects it to take about three weeks for the house to "settle" at its new site, and then he will move in again.
"They have to build a foundation under it," and rehook utilities, he said.
All Repsher could do was wait as the propped-up house sat expectantly above the muddy lot.
"I'd take you on a tour," he said, "if we could get up there."
By nightfall, the house was sitting on supports at its new location.
"It was fun," Repsher said. "It felt like it was a parade and I was leading it."
Thursday afternoon, he was driving the 2 1/2 hours back to Fenwick Island. Come Monday, he will be back at work and sleeping in the hotel. He looks forward to being back in his own bed in his suburban log cabin.
"It'll be nice," he said.