Why this house will soon be floating past West Seattle’s shore

Tonight, that 980-square-foot cottage is on the South Park riverfront site where it’s sat for 95 years, at 12th Avenue South and South Elmgrove. In a few days, you might notice it as it floats past West Seattle’s eastern/northeastern shore. It’s up on blocks and wheels, preparing for a move that’s scheduled to start early Monday. The house will be loaded onto a barge by the house-moving specialists at Nickel Bros. (which had listed it here), and taken to its new home on Orcas Island in the San Juans. While the house’s new owner is paying for that, Seattle Public Utilities is the agency clearing the site for future use as a street-end pocket park. The park will fulfill SPU’s obligation to provide something in exchange for taking over a street end elsewhere in South Park to build a new pump station. County records show the city paid $180,000 six months ago for the house and its 2,000-square-foot riverside lot.

10 Replies to "Why this house will soon be floating past West Seattle's shore"

  • miws April 19, 2014 (11:05 pm)

    Although I’m sure the barge ride will be at a rather slow pace, I’d be curious as to how much time it would take compared to what seems to be the typical move on land, of maybe 1/2 to 1 mile. They won’t have the challenge of overhead obstructions such as trees and power lines while they’re cruising along the Duwamish, Elliott Bay, and Puget Sound.



  • kevin April 20, 2014 (3:12 am)


    I’m guessing about 6 – 7 knots.

  • miws April 20, 2014 (5:53 am)

    Thanks kevin.


    Just going by memory, that sounds significantly quicker than that 1/2-1 mile all land scenario that I described. I seem to recall some of them taking around twelve hours, what with all of the predicted and unexpected delays due to the wires, trees, etc.


    Of course, presumably, there will be land travel on either end of this journey, (as well as land to water to land transfer).



  • Joe Szilagyi April 20, 2014 (7:46 am)

    Just a stupid question, but why move a 95 year old <1000 square foot house from South Park all the way north to the Islands? Wouldn't it be cheaper and easier to just build a new one up there?

  • BlairJ April 20, 2014 (9:51 am)

    I have to think this house has some sentimental value to the person it moving up to Orcas to justify the expense.

    But this is not the first case I have heard of like this. I knew a family who had a house in the U District that was in the way of I-5 in the early 60s. They put in on a barge and moved it to Vashon. (I visited the house in both locations as a child.) Probably a similar cost ratio of move vs. build new, then and now.

  • miws April 20, 2014 (11:22 am)

    I have to admit to having the same thoughts as Joe, since it looks to be just a basic little house, despite being thrilled to see it “recycled” in the best way, rather than simply demolished, with some/all of it going into a landfill.


    I could understand if it was a grand Craftsman, or a (my favorite–brick) Tudor. After giving it more thought though, I came to the same conclusion as Blair…



    • WSB April 20, 2014 (11:46 am)

      We’ll see if we can find out through Nickel Bros. or SPS but, while I don’t know how much the barge trip costs, I would guess that even building a humble abode on an island can cost a notable amount because of the extra cost of bringing in material and labor.

  • Diane April 20, 2014 (12:04 pm)

    historic preservation
    some people (like me) have no desire for a big house, and LOVE really old homes; the lot they’re moving it to may be smallish; and what TR said
    I’ve gone to watch Nickel Bros move houses in middle of the night, which required a week prior of prep to the streets/trees/utilities/consulting with neighbors, to make way to get them out, and all the utility companies there throughout the night to pull lines/re-attach/monitor; with all the paid workers and permits required for a land move, I would really be curious to know the cost difference in a water move; Nickel Bros also has a fabulous video of a move they did from a hillside near SLU years ago, rolling the house down the hill to the street, moving all utilities, then to the barge; fascinating stuff

  • miws April 20, 2014 (1:05 pm)

    Thanks, WSB. And good point on potential cost to bring materials/labor to Orcas.


    I gave casual thought to move vs. build, but hadn’t even considered the very likely added cost of building on the Island, as opposed to that of a project on the Mainland.



  • coffee April 20, 2014 (2:11 pm)

    Repurposing old materials. If the house is sound, I fully support the move of it. Less for a landfill, less use of new lumber, etc. I hate that so much gets torn down.

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