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So what if their dream home needed to be moved? They're staying put.

House Raising

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Suddenly, Natalie Parsley feels her late-19th-century house subtly quiver. It's no earthquake. It's just Angel, her 20-pound dog, scurrying up the makeshift wooden steps on the side of her home.

"It vibrates a lot," Natalie says of her home.

Why is the house so sensitive? Probably because it's propped 10 feet off the ground.

Natalie and her husband, Mark, have lived in the home, known as Maplewood, in the Elmont area of Hanover County since 1990. So they weren't about to move out just because it was getting propped up, moved about 80 feet and swung around 90 degrees. They kept the utilities on and they stayed put.

While the Parsleys are discreet about the exact price of the home's renovations, they admit they could have nearly built or bought another house with the associated costs. "We could have built a house," Natalie says, "but we couldn't have built this one."

Once renovations are complete on the home within the next month, the 3,000 square feet of living space the home contains will sport an additional 1,800 square feet in the new basement. The home will have a permanent treated-wood foundation to protect its belly from the elements.

Mark says he's grown used to the vertical trek required to open his back door. "We don't have a deck anymore, we have a pier," he quips. "We're going to have a pier party when it's over."

At least it's level though. One day, during the nearly three-week period the home was being moved by Ace House Movers of Norfolk, the crew working on the home left it at a noticeable downward tilt. Until it was fixed, Mark says, it felt something like the Hanna-Barbera funhouse at nearby Paramount's Kings Dominion.

The most disconcerting change associated with the whole thing, Mark says, is not the height of the house but its new position. After having grown comfortable in the home over the years, it's strange to have to readjust his senses to the new position of regular outdoor sounds. Normal background sounds like the blowing of a train whistle as it crosses the countryside now have a weird quality to them, he says.

The house was forced to endure its peculiar fate because of a failing foundation, Mark says. "When it rained, the basement wall looked like Luray Caverns," he says. "We had a sink pump in the basement and it would cut on every few minutes."

Once the couple was told of the foundation's ills — on Christmas Eve no less — they set about determining the best fix. Ace House Movers connected the Parsleys with Ashland general contractor Jimmy Price. Several other contractors had declined the project, in part because of its unusual nature, before Price took up the assignment.

"They talk about 'out-of-the-box' thinking," Price says. "This is way out of the box."

Between December and May when the project began, the plan to save the home evolved from simply picking it up and fixing the foundation to picking it up and moving it to better accommodate the nearby road. When the building was originally constructed in the 1870s, the road followed a different route.

When the home was uprooted for the move, renovators found the home's original brick foundation, sunk deep into the ground. Over the years, the elements had attacked the wood above the original foundation and caused the ensuing foundation damage.

Despite everything, the couple thinks the money they've poured into the home is worth it, just as much as it was when they first bought the house after stumbling across it while lost on their way to a Halloween party in 1989. They closed on the house in January 1990. Despite the home's advanced age, they say, it was love at first sight.

"Have you ever just walked into a place and knew it was home? We just knew this was it," Natalie says. "We just bought with our hearts, not our brains."

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