Thursday, June 24, 2021
Preserving History at One Mile Per Hour
The Cox home has attracted plenty of gawkers to its new home.
Sunday, April 18, 2021



Charles and Rebecca Cox didn’t have to pack a single thing as they moved their family on Friday.

They simply left everything in place as movers lifted their two-story wood frame home onto a dolly and trucked it eight-tenths of a mile from Bullion Street and Third Avenue in Old Hailey to Little Lena Drive in Old Cutters.

Saltbox houses with their simple colonial facades were named after wooden salt containers from the colonial period.

“Even the upright piano stayed in place,” said Rebecca Cox. “I had feared it might bounce from its position into one of the other walls, but it made it.”

Neighbors turned out by the dozens to watch the home begin its journey at 8:30 in the morning. Many walked alongside, taking pictures and applauding when it made its journey relatively unscathed except for breaking a few tree branches along the way.

Charles Cox, a police officer, was on duty and spent his shift directing traffic around the spectacle as he watched his home move down the street.

Rebecca attached balloons to the house, evoking thoughts of the house carried away by balloons in the animated movie “Up,” and her touch of whimsy provoked clapping from families as it went by.

Rolling, rolling.

Movers set the 1,800-square-foot house down at its new home at 1 p.m., after a crawl of about two-tenths of a mile per hour. Or, what Rebecca calls “walking speed.”

“Everything went as well as it could have. It was overwhelming to see the excitement from the community. We’ve been dreaming about it arriving on the new lot for months. Now, the work starts,” said Rebecca, alluding to the next couple weeks when builders will pour the foundation and lower the house onto that foundation.

The move is the latest chapter in a home that was built in 1898.

The saltbox-style home with its signature one-sided sloped roofline was built by Will Bailey and his 17-year-old son, who stuffed four inches of newspapers in the walls to insulate the home. They also built a stable and outhouse out back.

Will and Caroline Bailey had come from Nevada to Hailey by train and stage during the Wood River Valley’s silver mining boom. Will worked as a mining engineer out Croesus Gulch.

“I saw the nails underneath the house after we removed the bricks, and they handled those nails so well,” said Rebecca. “We have journals on the house that have given us a great opportunity to visualize what was within its walls. They talked about their Vitrola phonograph, piano and a special doll that their daughter was allowed to hold only on special occasions. I think they would have been proud to see how it has been saved.”

Hailey teacher and librarian Alba Arndt and her husband Chet bought the house in 1950, also shelling out $4,800 for four lots on Third Avenue that the city’s namesake John Hailey had bought in 1884 for $50. Chet built a patio out of firebrick tile that had been baked in Chubbock, Idaho, and used in a 1930 bakery oven that used to reside in what eventually became the old Wood River Journal building.

 Alba Arndt lived there until 2010—a year shy of her death in 2011 at age 100. She took great pride in the house and her brick patio out back, which was shaded by her prized century-old pear tree. And the home and pear tree provided an oasis of stability as the world around her went through a rapid transformation with Friedman general store giving way to Atkinsons’ and Albertson’s and the fields that once surrounded Hailey filling up with homes.

“She loved her back yard,” said Mike Healy, who read newspapers for Arndt when her eyesight dimmed.

The Coxes began renting the house just over six years ago from Sarah and Tony Gray, who decided in 2021 that they wanted to put a new home on the lot.

“I was completely head over heels in love with the house so I always sort of dreaded the day we’d have to leave,” said Rebecca, director of the Blaine County Historical Museum. “Our landlords joked, ‘Gosh, we wish we could just give you the house,’ and that got me thinking that maybe we could move it.”

John Spencer of Associated Pacific Movers in Boise said he could move the house but the bricks that encased it would have to come off to cut down the weight.

The ensuing de-bricking party was the highlight of the entire process, Cox said.

“We invited family and friends over and got the food and music going. We rented scaffolding and got some power chisels and hammers. And, by the third wall, we had hit our stride. It was just magical as we got the entire house de-bricked in six hours—I had thought it would take days.”

The de-brickers were able to salvage nine pallets of bricks—or about 20 tons worth, scraping off mortar so the Coxes can use the bricks at their new home. They disposed of three trailers loaded with seven tons of broken bricks and mortar.

Once the bricks had been removed, the house movers worked like an army placing steel beams underneath the house to support its weight. They built a grid with wooden cribs and lifted the structure with hydraulic jacks so that nothing would break. Next came the parade down the street.

“Pretty exciting,” said Elizabeth Jeffrey. “The whole neighborhood and many other gawkers spent the cold early hours of the morning out on the street to watch it climb the incline out of its lot and then up on the street.  The rear wheels were pulled by hand to line up with the new direction of the front axels.  It was like watching a very, very slow mule train work its way up the street.”

As the house turned left onto Bullion, the power company lowered the power lines to the street and covered them with guards so the house could be driven over them.

“Once it’s set on its foundation and the water and sewer are connected, they can move right back in!” said Jeffrey. “A great idea for these times when lumber prices have gone up so much and you can’t find a contractor for the next year.  They’ll be home again in May!  Recycling old homes AND history.  Who can ask for more?!”

The move evoked thoughts of Annie Harris who moved the Victorian-style Minnie Moore Mine House from the heart of Bellevue four miles south in the early 1900s after neighbors complained about the pigs kept by her son. The family lived in the house during the week it took horses to pull the structure across a succession of smooth logs, the cook even cooking meals as they went.

Cox didn’t make flapjacks in her home as movers moved her house, but she did tell movers Annie’s story.

“I thought, ‘Ohmigosh, now we’re doing it,” she said.

Builders will pour the foundation under the house, which now floats above a hole. Then they’ll lower the house onto its new home. The Cox family plans to restore the footprint of the house as closely as possible to what it might have been—with modern amenities, of course.  They’ll insulate it and tighten it up for efficiency, then recover it with lap siding and new black framed windows.

“We’ll try not to alter the silhouette. The Bailey journal said they always planned to add a front porch, but they fell on hard financial times when the price of silver crashed in the 1890s and so never did that. So, building the front porch will be a crowning moment for me,” Rebecca said.

The family is currently staying with Rebecca’s parents. Rebecca hopes the family can move back home by May 11, the date of daughter Violet’s fourth birthday.

“Violet was born in this house so it would be wonderful to move back in on her birthday. I hope she and my other two children—10-year-old Charlotte and 12-year-old Titus—learn that, when you work hard and believe in goals, it comes to pass. I think it’s going to be really impactful for sure,” said Rebecca.

“This was such a dream, and they believed in it right away. We took a leap of faith, and we saw our dream come true.”


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