Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Old house finds a new home north of Howard Lake

March 9, 2009

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN - Slowly but surely, a 102-year-old, two-story farmhouse made its way from the original soil it was built upon several miles south of Lester Prairie to Middleville Township north of Howard Lake Tuesday.

The old house now has new ground under its massive exterior, and a new family who is eagerly awaiting the day that they can move in and call it their home for generations to come.

The house’s new owners are Brian and Melanie Lehtola of Howard Lake, and it was moved onto their property just north of Highway 12 – property that has been in Melanie’s family for several generations.

“Our journey began in August,” Melanie explained. “I saw it in the Herald Journal. I was actually looking for a recliner, and came across a giveaway six-bedroom house to be moved.”

The couple had been looking for a home that their extended family could comfortably live in along with them and their three children. The couple has two grown children as well.

“It was a blessing from God that was just handed to us,” Melanie said. “It would’ve cost so much to build a house that would accommodate all of us, and this gentleman, John Dammann, just gave it to us.”

Dammann’s great-grandfather, Wilhelm, built the house in 1906 on land that was acquired by the family in 1891. That century farm has been passed on to John and his wife Deb. The couple operates a cash crop and beef farm several miles south of Lester Prairie.

“The house just wasn’t the house that we wanted on that site,” Dammann explained, “but it was in too good of shape to tear down. Everybody is ‘going green’ these days, so this was our way of ‘going green.’”

After the Lehtolas visited with Dammann over the phone, they decided to take a look at the house. Once they agreed to take Dammann up on the offer, the Lehtolas began their search for an affordable house mover, and sought electrical bids to drop power lines along the moving route.

“Our first electrical bid came back at $90,000,” Melanie said. “We couldn’t afford that,” especially since the family still needed to hire a house mover.

McLeod Power Coop came up with a different route than the first bidder, which bypassed many substations, and consequently made the bid affordable for the couple.

Anderson Building Movers of Paynesville moved the large house, and worked hard with the couple in many ways including persuading MnDOT to reconsider its original requirement that the house be moved during nighttime hours along Highway 12.

Melanie explained that a nighttime move would’ve doubled the cost of the electrical bid.

“Neil Anderson worked a miracle to get us a daytime move,” Melanie said.

With today’s economy, Melanie said the couple was happy with how Flagship Bank in Winsted worked with them, especially Amy Gatz.

The move was pushed back a week because of a snowstorm, but once the ball was rolling, it was a huge success.

The building traveled county, state, and township roads over a two-day period until it was set on its final resting spot. The family is extremely excited to begin the dirt work necessary to construct a foundation, and expects to begin that work in early April.

“It was a blessing to finally move it, there were so many things we didn’t have control over along our journey,” Melanie explained. “And we are so grateful to the Dammanns for giving us the house.”

The whole family can’t wait until the day they get to move in, but perhaps the most excited are the two youngest children – “they’re ready to move in today,” Melanie laughed.


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