Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 8, 2019, pg. 22
When you think of house movers, you think of workers coming to a specific address, gathering up furniture and belongings, and loading them into a large truck. That isn't what this article is about. This is about moving a house itself! In the 20th century, Charles A. Smith (1873-1953) was a very prominent Albion house mover. Born in Shiawassee County, his father Ansel was a railroad engineer who moved the family to Albion in 1882 when Charles was a young age. Smith quit school in Albion in 1884 at the age of 11 to work for house mover Civil War veteran Smith Chatfield (1849-1904) and there he learned the house moving trade.
Upon Chatfield's death in 1904, Charles began his own house and structure moving business at his farm east of town along what became U.S.-12. He acquired more area farms and once owned a total of 350 acres. His moving business was named "Charles A. Smith Building Mover." Son Harold later joined his father and it was known as "Charles A. Smith & Son."
House/building moving involved placing the structures on dollies which could carry 75 to 80 tons apiece. Also needed were timbers, beams, jacks, regulatory signage, surveying transits, capstans, rollers, winches and chains, just to name some of the necessary items. House moving also involved cooperation with utilities such as Consumers Power Company and Michigan Bell Telephone Company which had to either "lift" its wires while a house was passing underneath, or temporarily remove them until the house had passed.
Following Charles' death in November, 1953, his son Harold (1905-1967) continued with the family business and renamed it the Harold Smith Moving Company. The 1950s were especially busy times for the house mover company. Albion College had Smith move several houses to new locations during its various building projects, including to make way for Goodrich Chapel. This continued into the 1960s when more houses were relocated for the College.
North of town, when the route for the new U.S.-12 by-pass right-of-way (I-94) was finalized in the 1950s, Harold Smith moved many houses in Sheridan and Parma Townships that had been in the path of the new super highway, to new locations. The Company held many sizable state highway clearance contracts. After the death of Harold Smith in March, 1967, his widow subsequently sold the entire inventory of house moving equipment at auction on July 8, 1967.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a house being moved by Charles A. Smith & Son, circa 1950. That's probably either Charles or Harold Smith standing there under the big beam upon which is painted the text: "C.A. SMITH, BUILDING MOVER, ALBION MICH." How many of our readers live in a house that had been moved from someplace else? Most likely it was moved there by Charles A. Smith & Son. If so, do you know where your house came from?
A house being moved by Charles A. Smith & Son in the 1950s
Also for this web version of the article we are adding a newspaper photograph of Mr. Charles A. Smith.
Mr. Charles A. Smith
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic