By BOBBIE GREEN
Mesquite’s historic ‘Relief Society House’ caused a stir in the town last week. As part of a major undertaking, the c.1929 house was moved from its original site on the west side of Willow St. across the street to be placed next to the house of historic rock.
The move made way for the now vacant land that will be used as part of the future Virgin Valley Historic District planned by developer Dixie Leavitt. The two historic houses will be restored and will form an important part of the square in the historic district.
Moving the old building was a joint effort of the Virgin Valley Historical Society and the Town of Mesquite. The city hired Nevada Structural Movers, a Reno company, to move the house.
No one expected the attention and emotional significance the move would have on members of the community. The movers arrived on Tuesday with plans for a Wednesday move.
But they faced some unforeseen challenges that required more work to secure the structure before the move. An earlier building, a small tithing building for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had been built with its own foundation on site. The current structure of the Relief Society House was later built around the old building. With this discovery, the move had to be postponed until Thursday morning.
Members of the Hughes family showed up on Tuesday, bringing their lawn chairs and preparing to camp until the move was complete. These all-day spectators averaged about 25 people.
In 1952, Wesley and Verde Hughes bought the relief house and moved in with their five daughters. The two older boys had already gone out alone. Another baby was born there before they finally left home.
These girls traveled from Idaho, Las Vegas and Bunkerville to be there for the move. Their spouses and other family members also came. They took photos of each step of the operation as it unfolded. It was a touching moment for the family.
“We are thrilled the town is keeping the heritage of the house alive,” said Hallie, one of the daughters. “But, of course, we are worried about the move itself.”
They feared that the house would break in two during the move.
But Jeff Long, owner of Nevada Structural Movers, said they were very careful and respectful of the history he was moving. They have done their best to preserve all the detail work discovered in the house. They also found a few artifacts hidden within the structure. One was a perfectly preserved cardboard Jumbo Prize candy box from Sweet’s Candy in Salt Lake City. All of these items will be placed in the collection of the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum.
Further delays followed during the week. The movers found that because rooms had been added around the original tithe building, the supporting beams were not as long as they should have been. Some didn’t reach the outer wall, so they had to be shored up and extended. A baptismal font that existed under the house in the basement also presented challenges and caused more delay. The date of the move has therefore been postponed again to Friday morning.
The estimated time for the move was set at around 9:30 a.m. Friday, but the actual time for the move ended at 5 p.m. That’s when the house came out into the street, all in one piece. The house was raised about five feet before the move so the truck/trailer could fit under it.
“My heart skipped a beat when they brought the house up,” Hallie said.
Hallie’s sister, Verlee, spent three days collecting pieces of old wood and bricks from the house. The sisters talked about what they could do with these things as keepsakes for their grandchildren.
Jose Guillen, one of the city employees on hand to assist with the move, commented “what a tough job the moving company employees did”. Guillen said he wouldn’t do it again.
Wesley Carter, also a town laborer, said: “I am related to the Hughes family, my grandfather was a carpenter and we’re pretty sure he did the woodwork for this house.”
The house stood on the street long after dark. The moving company brought lights to continue working. The house had to be placed on log piles above the platform the city had made for the house before it could be lowered. This is where he stayed until he could be brought down.
“The house will be on stilts for quite some time,” said Geraldine Zarate, president of the Virgin Valley Historical Society, who had been present for most of the four-day vigil.