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Adventures in Housing

Moving — instead of building — a house

Maria Hollenhorst Aug 29, 2023
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When Anna and Patrick Knapp came to Wisconsin, they decided to take a house off of a church's hands and move it to their property. It worked out well. Courtesy Anna Knapp
Adventures in Housing

Moving — instead of building — a house

Maria Hollenhorst Aug 29, 2023
Heard on:
When Anna and Patrick Knapp came to Wisconsin, they decided to take a house off of a church's hands and move it to their property. It worked out well. Courtesy Anna Knapp
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In July 2010, Anna Knapp and her husband, Patrick, were starting their lives over in Wisconsin after a decade in Alaska. They had a young family — one toddler and a baby on the way — and 10 acres of family farmland, but no house. 

“Someone suggested, why don’t you put an ad in the paper and see if someone would be willing for you to take their house off their property, and then, you know, just move it on to the land that my family had given us?” Anna Knapp recalled. “So we did that.”

The Knapps put an ad in the local paper explaining that they were looking to move an old house onto their land. “That went into the paper on a Friday,” Anna said. “And that particular weekend, this local church that’s about 5 miles north of us was meeting to decide what to do with this old church parsonage that they had.”

The story Patrick and Anna were told is that as leaders of the church were deciding what to do with the old building, a woman rushed into the church waving the paper and said, “Look at this ad!”

A few days later, the Knapps checked out the house and decided it would work for their family. “It’s a really good, sturdy house,” Anna said. “It’s a 1930s cottage-style, kind of like a story and a half. It’s cute.”

The church, which hadn’t used the old building for some time, agreed to sell the house to the Knapps for $1. The Knapps made plans to have the house moved. “It really was a good deal for everybody,” she said. 

A person looks at a white story-and-a-half house that's at an angle on a road. It appears to be pulled by a truck.
The Knapps’ house on the move in January 2011. (Courtesy Anna Knapp)

Anna and Patrick hired a company to take care of the move. “If I remember right, it cost about $10,000 to move the house, maybe a little bit more,” Anna said. The workers jacked up the house — much like you would jack up a car — and put structural supports underneath to transport the building with a semitruck. 

“We had to do things like work with the local police to close the road … and take down part of the roof so that it would fit underneath the power lines,” Anna said. 

It took a whole day for the house to reach the couple’s property. To prepare for its arrival, they had built a basement and a foundation for the old house to sit on. 

The house needed to cross a frozen field after reaching the property. Unfortunately, the January weekend between moving the house to the driveway and the planned crossing of the field to the foundation was unusually warm. 

The Knapp’s home, successfully positioned on their land. (Courtesy, Anna Knapp)
The Knapps’ home in its new location on family farmland. (Courtesy Anna Knapp)

“The field was just mud and water,” Anna recounted. “And that house sat at the end of the driveway for a month with no roof.”

The house did suffer water damage from its prolonged exposure on the Knapps’ driveway. “But overall, the house held up,” Anna said.

A few months later, the family moved in, even though the electrical and plumbing systems were unfinished. “It was kind of like we camped at our own house,” she said. 

More than a decade later, the Knapps still live in the old building. “This house has been so essential to the life that we have here,” Anna said. 

The cost savings of moving a house, rather than building a new one, enabled them to avoid taking out a mortgage. 

“That allowed me to be a work-from-home mom,” Anna said. She started an organic farm, raised chickens and goats, and grew food. “Those were really cool years for us, and this house made that possible.”

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