UPDATE: Thursday is moving day for the 1895 Victorian home that has been sitting in a storage facility in Egg Harbor Township. The home will be moved from storage to its final home in Cape May. 

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — In a muddy storage yard, with the sound of machinery in the distance, Adrienne Scharnikow stood eye level with the third floor of her childhood summer home.

It’s part of what was once one of Avalon’s oldest homes, an 1895 Victorian that survived two lightning strikes and the March Storm of 1962.

There are only a handful left in Avalon.

So when it faced demolition last year, Scharnikow said she had to save it.

“I just couldn’t stand to see a wrecking ball take it down,” said Scharnikow, 46, of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, as she jumped onto the small balcony.

A developer bought the property in November 2017 with plans to build a new, million-dollar mansion in its place. Scharnikow paid $1 for the house and hired a moving company to tear it down piece by piece before reassembling it in a storage yard 40 miles away at a cost of $150,000.

Cape May will be its final resting place, a city the family picked for its focus on historic preservation and rows of colorful Victorian homes.

Both Scharnikow and her husband, Joe, agree the house will blend in well in Cape May, a city that was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. While other shore towns replaced quaint cottages and bungalows with McMansions, Cape May fought to have its history preserved.

The Scharnikows are awaiting permits to reconstruct the house on a lot on Texas Avenue. They’ve spent months going over paperwork and reading through zoning regulations.

Realizing they’d need help, the couple hired a general contractor in August, followed by two engineering firms.

“I know it’s really rough now,” she said, “but this place will be gorgeous when it’s done.”

The home’s first floor is feet away from the third floor, hoisted a foot off the ground on piling cribs. A slightly rusted bathtub sits on the wraparound porch. Inside, a stack of 20 stained-glass windows lies horizontally inside the dimly lit home.

The white and yellow paint is chipping after weathering harsh winds, snow and rain for the past year. Before the move, Scharnikow said, the shingles will be replaced with new siding that mimics the original pattern.

Other historic aspects will be saved, such as the original wood banister. Scharnikow said Cape May nonprofit the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities asked to have the house included in its history tours of the city.

The daunting project worries Scharnikow. The house has been without a foundation for 12 months, making it vulnerable to storms. She rattles off her greatest fears: the plaster walls cracking, the interior getting soaked or the floors giving in.

“The whole winter, I’ve been worried,” she said. “There’s a lot of risk.”

By June, the family hopes the home will be relocated. Trucks will move the pieces very carefully down the Garden State Parkway to Exit 0 at about 5 mph.

A zoning permit was approved in November. The next step is getting an approval from the Cape May Board of Engineers and obtaining a construction permit. Then, they can start the foundation. More than 50 piling will be driven 25 feet deep into the lot. The Scharnikows declined to say how much the project would cost.

“We’ve had engineering firms and an architect and done soil boring tests,” said Joe Scharnikow. “It’ll all work out.”

Cape May homes were often on the move in the past, said Harry Bellangy, president and historian of the city’s historical society. Buttercup Cottage, for instance, was once located in Cape May Point but was moved to Columbia Avenue in Cape May about three miles away.

Depending on the distance, the process could take hours or days, he said.

“It was not uncommon for someone to say, ‘Honey, we’re moving, and we’re taking the house with us,’” Bellangy said.

Contact: 609-272-7258 azoppo@pressofac.com Twitter @AvalonZoppo

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