This Old House Meets Ice Road Truckers

movinghouse3We’ve posted about one dollar houses available in South Bend, Indiana, and in Norfolk, Massachusetts. Sometimes, the catch is that the houses have to be moved from their present location. You might wonder how some of these one dollar house purchases work out…  today we have a success story from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Last year, Minnesota general contractor Doug Kraemer purchased the caretaker’s home on Manitou Island for $1, with the condition that he move it off the island.

manitoubridgeManitou Island is White Bear Lake’s “tony private island neighborhood,” first developed with summer cottages in 1881. The house was built several years later for the island association’s first caretaker, Casper Bloom, who lived in it for 40 years. Successive generations of caretakers have also resided there. The house was remodeled in 1991, and the caretaker position was finally discontinued in 2001. The association wanted to divide the caretaker lot in two, and sell the building lots, so the caretaker house needed to go.

movinghouse1The biggest challenge to moving the house was the bridge connecting the island and the mainland- described as “too narrow and wimpy” to support the 60-ton house. Wheeling the house across the lake was the only option. For the last week, contractors with Semple Building Movers and Swift House Movers have been pumping water out on to the ice to thicken it up (The near-zero degree weather has helped out a lot). On Tuesday, January 28, the house was lifted from its foundation and transported to the edge of the lake on two enormous dollies and pulled by a truck traveling at 2 mph.


At the lake’s edge, the house was hoisted on to more dollies, with its weight spread out among 64 tires. On Thursday, the tow truck started across the ice, the cables pulled taut, and the house began its 100 yard journey. 25 Minutes later, it was successfully on the other side, in the parking lot of Matoska Park. The Minnesota Star Tribune captured some great video of the event for their news story.

movinghouse2Although the house cost just one dollar, Kraemer estimates the moving costs at around $40,000. The house will be moved onto a lot in downtown White Bear Lake a few blocks away this weekend. Kraemer plans on selling the house. The price for moving the house was pretty reasonable, considering the difficulties involved. Dan Matyiko of Expert House Movers, with offices in St. Louis, Missouri, and Virginia Beach, Virginia estimates moving costs starting at $14-16 per square foot, or $600 per ton. The cost can go up dramatically depending on the distance traveled, on how many utility wires need to be lifted or removed, on how many neighbors’ mailboxes need to be replaced along the way, and many other factors.

iasmHowStuffWorks has a great overview of the housemoving process, and if you’re looking for a housemoving contractor in your state, check out the member directory at the International Association of Structural Movers.


  1. by Historic House Blog » Videos- Historic Home on the Move….and not, on 02.09.09 @ 10:47 PM


    […] couple of weeks ago, we featured a post on an historic island caretaker’s home being moved across the ice in Minnesota. Since then, I’ve run across a number of timelapse videos of historic houses being moved. […]

  2. by Barkri, on 03.04.09 @ 4:58 AM


    History Channel on Sundays at 10PM, that is well worth the watching. As you can tell from the banner, it is called Ice Road Truckers, and it follows big rig drivers as they drive the winter road to deliver critical equipment and supplies to the diamond mines in extreme northern Canada. The Ice Road could not have a more appropriate name, as much of it is made up only of that, you see, the trucks are traveling on frozen lakes. The areas of solid ground in between the lakes, aren’t all that much better, featuring slick inclines and tricky curves. The Ice Road is only open for two months out of every year, and driving it is a very risky proposition.

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