"Mr. Webb is your man for this job. He will get your building moved quickly to your Brattle Street site, and with positive publicity for ETS for saving your Cambridge landmark. I have worked with Mr. Webb before relocating the 1757 Watson House to 30 Elmwood Avenue, opposite the Harvard president's house."
On the day of the move I contracted with the Cambridge police to act as my facilitators in redirecting traffic and dealing with any problems that might arise with residents when the ETS house rolled up Brattle Street.
Starting early that morning we completed the job of lifting the house up onto a low custom built rolling platform supported by a dozen wheels and pulled by a truck. The twelve room house measured 34 feet high. The hipped roof with monitor and broad pilaster strips at the corners of the house made it quite distinctive as it rolled up Brattle Street from the corner of Phillips Place and Mason Street at the lower end of Brattle. We passed the Longfellow House with occasional stops to relocate electric wires, street lights and cut an occasional limb of a tree that blocked our route.
By mid morning we were nearing the intersection of Craigie, Sparks and Brattle Streets when a man emerged from his house. He was the well known cartoonist Al Capp, the creator of Little Abner and a publicity seeker, using every opportunity to get his name and picture into print.
Al Capp walked over and told us to stop. He would not allow us to proceed if we intended to cut his tree limb that protruded over Brattle Street. I explained there was no alternative route and we would have to cut his branch. Al Capp responded that was our problem, not his.
After a bit more unproductive discussion I requested our policeman proceed with the house move. The policeman directed the limb cutter to continue. He requested Al Capp get out of the road and stand aside on the sidewalk. Al Capp sat down on Brattle Street. At that moment several newspaper writers and a camera man appeared from nowhere -- (Al Capp's house?). When the two policemen attempted to lift Al Capp off Brattle Street he lay flat on the pavement. The photographers snapped their pictures.
I attempted to explain to the media writers that Cambridge could regrow its tree limbs but could not regrow its nineteenth century architectural heritage. (An embarrassing article "It Rattled Brattle" appeared the next day in the Boston Globe, and quoted Al Capp. "It was a bloody crime! Any mutilation of trees is not worth saving 10 houses.")
We put this awkward incident behind us and rolled our landmark further up Brattle Street to the intersection of Brattle, Sparks and Craigie Streets where those five streets intersect. We were surprised by the sound of an explosion. One of the tires of the undercarriage platform supporting the house blew out. Then another. Then another. The house and its undercarriage began tilting and slowly settled.
This was very awkward. I was embarrassed! Traffic was tied up as we sought replacement tires so we could resume our way up Brattle. At the corner of Channing Street I had prepared a foundation and cellar upon which to place the Wells House. It was our intention to reach this site by afternoon.
By early evening we had not. I was required by the Cambridge Police to contract for a night and then the next day for police assistance. I was told to secure two dozen lanterns to place on the Brattle Street intersection surrounding the grounded house. That night was eventful. Many motorist stopped to inquire and inspect this building that had unexpectedly parked itself in the middle of Brattle Street. I guarded the structure with the several policemen and explained to all interested persons the difficulties of that day. I stressed my expectation of a quick and successful conclusion to this project, and the next day we did complete the move.
Several weeks later the restoration of the 1853 house was completed and the project came to a happy and successful conclusion as my daughter Mary and I applied the last coat of paint to the newly renovated front door of the house. However, in accord with the rhythm of this project my twelve year old daughter, Mary, got paint in her eye. We quickly recovered from this last unexpected and regretful event, as we had from all the others.
Today with pride and a sense of accomplishment The Judge Wells House stands majestically on the corner of Channing at 170 Brattle Street -- for you to view.