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Historic mansion moved to new home

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QUEENSTOWN — The now locally famous Galloway house reached its final resting point just after sunset on Sept. 25. For the past several weeks, the move of the 255-year-old historic mansion has been the talk of both Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, and garnered the attention of folks on the western shore as well, as it is not often houses are seen moving by barge up the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

The home is now situated on the Wye River at Cheston-On-Wye, past Carmichael and behind the University of Maryland research center. Although the Neeleys, Pat and Christian, who supervised the majority of the move, were gracious to share their experience, the new home site is private and closed to the public.

The new site of the circa 1760 manor house is home of the original mansion built by the DeCoursey family. The owners were renovating the most recent farm house there, but it burned down. They then decided to move this house there, unknowing when they purchased it that it was the childhood home of Mrs. DeCoursey, daughter of William Nicols and Henrietta Maria Chamberlaine Nicols, the original owners of what is now the “Galloway house.”

Local lore tells of the graveyard at Cheston-On-Wye where DeCoursey nee Nicols is laid to rest. With the Galloway house rumored to be haunted, some speculate that her spirit will be at rest with the move of her family home to Cheston-On-Wye.

Some said they were feeling a little empty after all the excitement, reported Chris Polk for The Star Democrat. Polk covered the progress of the house from Chapel Road in Easton to the town dock where it would be placed on a barge for its move up river.

Former Queen Anne’s County High School employee and Centreville resident Vivian McClyment was one of those following the move. She shared photos and updates in the days leading up to the final leg of the trip. After a couple of false starts, McClyment said she was determined to stick it and out and see the house loaded onto the barge. From her spot on the dock, McClyment observed that the restoration is likely to take at least a year. Unless the owners post photos of the renovation, McClyment said, no one will see the finished work as no one is going to get on the property after the house is delivered.

The move involved putting the circa 1760 manor house on wheels, crossing U.S. Route 50, traveling slowly down the Easton Parkway during several nights and arriving at Easton Point, placing it upon a barge and floating it to a new property near Wye Island.

The move was conducted by Expert House Movers company, the same company that moved the Block Island Lighthouse in 1993 and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999.

The whole process was an immense feat of coordination and engineering that fascinated the Mid-Shore public. Hundreds of people turned out during the wee hours of the morning to watch the moving process, bringing lawn chairs and refreshments. Folks from far and wide visited the house on wheels wherever it was parked in town during the day.

It was the business of being placed on the barge where a few hiccups occurred. The barge that arrived and was ready for work on Sept. 13 had ballast problems and began to list. Eventually that barge was righted, but after an engineering consultation, it was deemed a larger barge was needed.

The mansion spent the weekend in a grassy park on Easton Point. Then on Tuesday, Sept. 24, a second, much larger barge arrived at Easton Point.

Getting the 400-ton structure on the barge began a little earlier than 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Sept. 25. Even in the pre-dawn darkness, a crowd came to watch just how complicated it is to wheel a centuries-old manor house onto a barge.

Crews from Expert House Movers quickly maneuvered their forklifts to build ramp ways, chocked up with solid lumber underneath flat panels that would ease the house’s transition from land to boat. At least three pilings at the Easton Point bulkhead had to be sawed off to allow for the passing of the wheels.

Time was of the essence. According to the movers, there was a narrow window, two hours before and two hours after low tide during which the transfer could be made. Low tide at Easton Point was at 8:42 a.m.

The new, larger barge was pumped full of water to lower it and provide an even surface for the transfer. As the mansion was wheeled inch-by-inch onto the barge, water was pumped out to equalize the displacement of weight.

After at least eight hours of maneuvering on Wednesday morning, the Galloway mansion was stabilized on the barge and the tugboat Northstar Integrity‘s engines began to rev up.

A large gathering of people at the bulkhead watched as the old manor house pulled away a few minutes after noon.

By afternoon on the 25th, the barge was finally full speed ahead. Propelled by the tugboat Northstar Integrity, the house was carried from Easton Point down the Tred Avon River, past Oxford and out into the Choptank River, by Benoni Point, then Black Walnut Point at the lower end of Tilghman, and out into Eastern Bay.

It passed Oxford at about 1:45 p.m. with onlookers watching from all over town, especially The Strand and across the river at Bellevue. Speeds during the fastest part of the journey were as high as 6.7 knots, according to satellite information.

From Tilghman, they traveled north, rounded Claiborne Point, entered the Miles River briefly before the Wye River and around Wye Island. At 6:39 p.m. satellite tracking located the Northstar Integrity entering DeCoursey Cove, near Cheston on Wye.

Finally, the tugboat had stopped, with sunset at 6:58 p.m., the Galloway mansion arrived shortly after, reaching its new home, just over the border in Queen Anne’s County.

Social media was filled with photos from those who were lucky enough to be on the water when the house passed by them.

“No words can describe how amazing it was to turn the corner on the Wye tonite and see the Galloway house floating so majestically down the river!” wrote Janice Walinskas.

The home lived through many different uses over the years, serving as a plantation, a stock farm, a dairy, and finally the home of a florist for nearly 50 years. The new intended use for this property is to give four generations of a very mobile and dispersed family someplace to call home, say the Neeleys.

Nothing short of a million dollar view — properties in the neighborhood currently on the market are listed upwards of $1.7 million.

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