Dozens of people with cameras in hand gathered Tuesday morning to watch one of Marilla’s oldest homes move to a new address.
It was a short parade.
The distance of less than half a mile, from the Bullis Road site where the log cabin stood for 160 years or more to town-owned property around the corner on West Avenue, was covered in about 15 minutes.
The 16-by-22½-foot cabin, part of a larger home owned by John and Sharon Gingerich since the mid-1990s, was donated to the Marilla Historical Society by the couple, who are building a new home. They and their 14-year-old grandson, Cody, were among those who followed the cabin’s progress along the two-lane streets to its new address, where it will remain on a trailer until a foundation is built.
Sharon Gingerich fought back tears as the trailer was maneuvered into position.
“A lot of memories,” she said. “I made my daughter-in-law’s wedding gown in that house. The train was so long the only place I had to work on it was the living room floor.”
The Gingeriches had two bedrooms, an office and a living room in the log cabin.
“We had originally planned on saving that and fixing up the foundation and building onto it,” explained John Gingerich, a cousin of Town Supervisor Earl Gingerich Jr. “When we got into it, there was too much wrong with it. It was going to cost us a whole lot more than just removing it and building new.”
Removal of the structure from its stacked stone foundation occurred before Monday’s torrential downpour turned the site into a muddy mess.
With Gus Hartloff of Walter S. Hartloff & Son in the driver’s seat, a one-ton pickup pulled the 16-wheel trailer. The only hiccups during transport occurred when a roof shingle was snagged by an overhead wire near the intersection and a cable snapped on West Avenue.
Historical Society President Mary Beth Serafin had scrambled to find a way to move the structure after the Gingeriches contacted the organization in May. Town officials agreed to pay for the move, which has cost approximately $8,000 so far, and the foundation, she said.
“The Historical Society will be responsible for restoration,” Serafin said.
The original cabin probably had a single large room, divided by a partition, and a loft, Serafin said. Its exterior was covered in clapboard, in the Greek Revival style popular between 1820 and 1860.
Through the years, multiple additions were built, and the loft became a dormer.
The Historical Society also is working to establish the provenance of the house, which was thought to have been built for an agent for the Buffalo Creek Reservation as part of the Treaty of Big Tree. But the latest information indicates it was built by German settlers sometime between 1810 and 1854 – when the town was founded, according to Serafin.
A sign erected at the Bullis Road site by the Erie County Historical Society, as part of the county’s 1971 sesquicentennial, states the house was built in about 1823 and was the first in Marilla, among other things. “We have always disputed the statement on it,” said Serafin.
Establishing a precise date is difficult in many ways, said Town Historian Hubert Kutter. Title searches don’t necessarily indicate whether there was a structure on the property, he noted.
“A lot of times, you have to read between the lines,” Kutter said.
An expert from Cornell University is testing a wood sample to determine when the logs were harvested, Serafin said.