By Brian Sanders
VERNON — Chris Asher, director of Jennings County Historical Society, watched nervously Friday as its latest exhibit arrived.
The delivery drew curious stares from Vernon residents, as a six-man crew from Kentucky squeezed a 17-foot by 17-foot Victorian-style building next to the society museum on Brown Street.
In October, the aging building, formerly located on North Vernon's College Street, was donated to the society.
Originally thought to be a railroader's home, Asher has since learned that the building served as an office for Eldo Hicks and his four sons, railroad bridge engineers.
Peg Salb, Hicks' great-great-granddaughter, of Jennings County, was the source of the information.
"This little house is where they schemed for all those bridges," said Asher, recalling Salb's words.
Hicks last used the office in 1911, when he moved to Florida.
Aside from its age, what makes the building unique is its architectural nuances such as fish scale detailing, gingerbread woodwork and corner windows.
The building likely was ordered through the mail and delivered to North Vernon via train.
The long-expected move, which had been delayed by recent wintry weather, took place Friday morning.
Edwards House & Building Movers, LLC, out of Crestwood, Ky., was hired to handle the job.
In business since 1961, the company has experience moving historic buildings, according to owner Stephen Edwards .
The move was scheduled for earlier in the month, but snow and ice prompted Indiana State Police to halt any over-sized moving projects for a week.
"It's only sat there 117 years, I guess a few more days wouldn't hurt," said Edwards .
Friday, the building was loaded onto a trailer and hauled to Vernon with an ISP escort.
Although a short trip down Indiana 7, it took several minutes for the building to reach its Vernon destination.
Moving larger and heavier buildings generally is more difficult than moving smaller structures, Edwards explained.
However, moving a delicate, antiquated building onto a narrow smalltown street presents its own challenges.
After some tree-trimming and a few attempts at backing the trailer into the lot next to the museum, the six-man crew unloaded the building.
It's now up to local volunteers to repair rotten beams underneath the structure and replace the building's original foundation stones.
The stones were removed by Travis Shepherd, director of the Jennings County community service program and probationers.
Asher said the work must be completed within 21 days, at which point Edwards ' company will return to lower the building onto its foundation.
The next step in the restoration project will be to replace the building's roof, which could not be salvaged.
The project was partially funded by a $10,000 loan from Historic Landmarks of Southern Indiana, but Asher believes another $10,000 will be needed.
Asher and Society volunteer Pat Rice are seeking monetary donations and donations of items for use in fundraising auctions.
Asher credited volunteers, particularly Shepherd and Dave Heilman, who handled excavation for the project, with making the move possible.
"Pat and I have vision and we have guts, but we can't move it without them," she said.