Free house for grabs – historic home is all yours, if you can move it

Pine flooring ready to be moved or re-used.

Pine flooring ready to be moved or re-used. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

The staircase is the first thing you see when you walk into the house.

The staircase is the first thing you see when you walk into the house. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

A sunny room off the entry area.

A sunny room off the entry area. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

 One of the five fireplaces.

 One of the five fireplaces. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

Rye Town Historian Alex Herlihy (pictured) and the Rye Advocates for Historic Homes are trying to find someone who will take this historic colonial off the owner’s hands – it just needs to be moved.

Rye Town Historian Alex Herlihy (pictured) and the Rye Advocates for Historic Homes are trying to find someone who will take this historic colonial off the owner’s hands – it just needs to be moved. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

Antique hardware is found throughout.

Antique hardware is found throughout. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

The box winder staircase that goes to all three floors.

The box winder staircase that goes to all three floors. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

Rye Town Historian Alex Herlihy (pictured) and the Rye Advocates for Historic Homes are trying to find someone who will take this historic colonial off the owner’s hands – it just needs to be moved.

Rye Town Historian Alex Herlihy (pictured) and the Rye Advocates for Historic Homes are trying to find someone who will take this historic colonial off the owner’s hands – it just needs to be moved. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

If interested, contact Rye New Hampshire Town Historian Alex Herlihy a alexherlihy@comcast.net.

If interested, contact Rye New Hampshire Town Historian Alex Herlihy a alexherlihy@comcast.net. Courtesy of Alex Herlihy

By CHLOE RATTEE

Monitor staff

Published: 02-28-2024 1:09 PM

Modified: 02-29-2024 6:03 PM


Up for grabs: A historic farmhouse with wide pine floors, raised paneled doors, wooden wainscoting and antique hardware.

Built by the Locke family in Rye in 1830, the white, 2,000-square-foot Colonial – complete with additions –  features four bedrooms and two full bathrooms.

To say the price is affordable would be an understatement. It’s being offered for free. 

In today’s market, a free house can seem too good to be true. In some ways, it is since the house needs to be disassembled, moved, and reassembled.

The unique opportunity through the Rye Advocates for Historic House Preservation arose when the new owners decided they didn’t want to demolish the historic house, but they don’t want to live in it, either. The owner, who acquired the property in June, wants to build further back on the lot and is looking for the existing home to be removed by the end of the summer.

“I know it could be done in a matter of weeks,” said Alex Herlihy, the town historian, and member of the preservation group. “This would not take months.”

The prospective “buyer” for the free house has two primary choices: Either move the old farmhouse in a couple of 2 ½-story pieces to a nearby lot or completely dismantle and rebuild the entire house elsewhere. Both options would require a new foundation, possibly by reusing the granite stones currently under the house.

Rebuilding the house will take time and expense.

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“You’ve got this box winder front staircase, so when you open the front door, there’s the stairway. And it goes up, and then it turns to the left, and then it turns to the left again, so you’ve got three stages going upstairs,” Herlihy said. “That thing comes out last in one piece, and it is the first thing you put up when you go to reassemble it because it’s so big – it doesn’t come apart.” 

Herlihy knows a thing or two about rebuilding homes. His own historic house was dismantled in Hampton and rebuilt in Rye in 1975. Herlihy said the masons re-used 1,000 bricks from the outside of the original house to build the new fireplace, patina and all. 

The Locke Road house has two chimneys and five fireplaces that could be similarly repurposed.

“You really want to think, ‘okay, I want to take this, this, and this. No, I'm going to take that too, and I'm going to take that,’” Herlihy said. “Why would I leave it behind? Because I know I can reuse it.” 

Herlihy could not give an estimate for how much the house move would cost today to dismantle compared to his own home because of the customization factor, inflation, and, probably the biggest difference, modern labor costs.

Herlihy said he has already talked to multiple contractors who specialize in the dismantling and rebuilding of old houses. He said the ideal buyer, though, would be someone who already has some experience with either old houses or the rebuilding process, so they don’t have to hire out all of the work. Since it’s a post and beam house, the pieces can be numbered and reassembled back together, unlike more modern houses built with two-by-four construction.

Town records say the house on Locke Road was built in 1830, but Herily said the historical society has documents that date the construction back to 1826. 

Rye has only 317 houses built before 1905 out of about 3,000 total housing units. Herlihy believes that the preservation of the few left is important to the appeal of any New England town.

“When people want to move to a community… after the natural beauty, it’s the built environment,” he said.

Herlihy is the main contact for those interested in the home. Multiple inquiries have been made so far, including some “heartbreaking” emotional responses from many people who would love to take the project up but do not have the resources. The historic preservation group is offering tours and will pass on complete proposals to the owner.

“[We] appreciate all the interest and we know how much people love the historic New England architecture,” said Herlihy. “Sure, it would be nice to have it in Rye, but the fact that it would be rebuilt someplace and saved is the important thing.”

If you are interested in owning this historic home, contact Rye New Hampshire Town Historian Alex Herlihy at alexherlihy@comcast.net.