For these Australians, moving home means sawing up a property and driving it hundreds of miles away
Updated 7:19 PM ET, Sat December 5, 2020
Brisbane (CNN)With their rear lights flashing, two huge trucks slowly backed down the suburban Australian driveway, delicately carrying two-thirds of a 100-year-old house.
Workers had spent two days sawing the house's timber frame into three pieces 30 meters (98 feet) long and 8 meters (26 feet) wide, so it could be moved from Bald Hills, an outer suburb of Brisbane, to a town 170 kilometers (105 miles) away -- and reassembled for new owners.
Two bedrooms and the reception room were strapped on to one truck, with the dining room, a third bedroom and the living room on the other. The sun room and kitchen would follow later.
Usually it is homeowners who move, not houses. But in the state of Queensland, at least 500 properties were moved last year, according to estimates from several companies.
Most, like Number 36 -- as it was known before the move -- are Queenslanders.
Named after the Australian state, these timber properties, typical at the turn of the 20th century, were built on stilts to let the humid summer air flow beneath them.
Queenslanders fell out of fashion in the 1930s, when homeowners started to look to the US and Europe for art deco and Spanish mission-style brick homes. But in recent years, the classic local design with its wide verandas has become highly sought after.
But buyers often can't -- or don't want to -- live in the homes in their original locations, and so are taking the extraordinary step of cutting up and moving them. It's relatively affordable to move a Queenslander, due to their timber design, and trying to replicate the style in a new build misses the point.
"People who live in one of these won't build a new house," said John Wright, who has been relocating Queenslanders for 40 years. "No walls are ever perfectly level and straight, and they certainly have a classic sort of character to them."
Experts say the trend is both a boon -- it is preferable to the properties being demolished -- and a loss for conservation: it divorces the properties from their past.
Local historians say each time a Queenslander is moved, leaving behind an empty plot or making way for a new development, the character of a suburb subtly changes.
And, the stories of each home like Number 36 become harder to find.