Historic home rolls down Highway 90

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX)-Pass Christian celebrated the move of a historic home Tuesday.

A nearly 100 year old house known as "Merrywood" stood in the way of the new Wal Mart development.  The owner agreed to sell, but with the condition that the old house be preserved.

That resulted in a rather impressive house-moving.

Gravel crunched as movers began a three mile journey with a 150 ton house.

"This is a big job," said the job foreman.

It's a job made easier by hydraulics, activated by a mover with a remote control and a joystick.

Donald Barbee is with Ducky Johnson House Movers.

"Each dolly is hydraulic driven. And they pivot for turning and they also pull. They run about five miles an hour," he explained.

As police confined Highway 90 traffic to two lanes, the old house takes up the other two.

Known as "Merrywood" the house was once home to a famous newspaper reporter Edward Price Bell. The Chicago Daily News reporter was a longtime London correspondent who retired in the Pass.

"My parents lived there for 35 years," said Dawn Nelson.

She's most familiar with more recent history. Her parents, Jim and Quida Tanner, bought Merrywood three years after Hurricane Camille.

"My parents opened their home to so many people with gatherings and things. And it's just filled with love and special memories for a lot of people," she said.

Merrywood's new owner accompanied the movers and enjoyed the "ride of his life" from the front porch.

"I've got some property here that got destroyed during Katrina. Been looking for a use for it. Must have drawn up 50 things. And this just kind of fell into place," said Mike Gillespie.

As the house neared downtown, a welcoming party broke out.

"This is Mardi Gras in December. All we need is some beads right now," said a smiling Mayor Chipper McDermott.

Dozens watched the unusual move and welcomed the historic home to its new lot on East Scenic Drive.

"The chamber of commerce gets to stay in there for five years, rent free. So that's going to be a win win. And the lady that owned the house is very glad to see it come here on Scenic Drive where we need to fill in some spots," said the mayor.

Half inch thick steel plates enable the home to make the final climb up the hill and onto East Scenic.

"It was so important that my mother had it put in the contract when she sold the house, not to tear it down. Because so many homes were destroyed during Katrina," said Nelson.

This storm survivor will be preserved, doing its part to help revive downtown Pass Christian.

The house also has a spiritual significance for many people in Pass Christian. Members of the "Church of the Good Shepard" met in that old house for years before building their new church.