OYSTER, Va. (AP) - It will be hard for John T. Jr. and Ann Beamer Williams to top this year’s wedding anniversary celebration.
On the Accomack County couple’s ninth anniversary on Nov. 25 they were offered the chance to ride along on a unique sea voyage - the moving by barge of an historic store from the seaside village of Oyster to the bayside town of Cape Charles in Northampton County.
“A few weeks ago, we ran into Eyre Baldwin and he shared that he was going to be moving it,” said John T. Williams Jr. Baldwin offered the couple the opportunity to come along for the ride as the building was transported from one side of Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the other.
“It was our anniversary. … The stars aligned,” Williams said.
The Harvey Building, a former mercantile built in 1906 and now owned by the Baldwin family’s Eastern Shore Land Co., was moved the day before Thanksgiving from its former location near the end of Sunnyside Drive in Oyster to its new home at the end of the bulkhead at the Cape Charles Yacht Center, also a Baldwin enterprise.
The store had already been moved once before, but that move was just across the street from its original location in Oyster.
The Baldwins had renovated the first floor interior and were in the process of working on the second floor when Cherrystone Aqua Farms, the company that was leasing some nearby land in Oyster, wanted to purchase the land on which the Harvey Building stood in order to expand operations.
But the aquaculture business had no use for the building, so the Baldwins made the decision to save it by moving it - a good old Eastern Shore tradition.
In fact, Williams’ own parents years ago moved a farmhouse from a field in Hopeton to the town of Parksley several miles away. Williams grew up in Parksley in the renovated home.
The old Oyster store after its move will have a new life as a restaurant serving both boaters and the public.
The plan is for the restaurant to open by next summer.
It was decided to make the move by water rather than by land because of the number of power lines that would have to be moved out of the way for a land move, said Maggie Stodgehill, marketing director for the Cape Charles Yacht Center.
The operation started with removal of the building’s foundation on Nov. 18, followed by moving the building down to the bulkhead in Oyster on Nov. 20.
The move was coordinated by Ace House Movers of Virginia Beach, with expertise from Eastern Shoreman Henry Snyder.
The building was loaded onto a barge on Nov. 23 and finally made the trip to Cape Charles two days later.
“It was all timed by weather and wind,” Stodgehill said.
The journey commenced in Oyster early on the morning of Nov. 25 and the barge, with the tug piloted by another Eastern Shore native, Michael Steelman, arrived in Cape Charles around 1 p.m.
“So it was a good four or five hours on the water,” said Stodgehill.
The Williams embarked at Wise Point - in time to see perhaps the most meticulous part of the operation, when the barge and its load had to be lined up just so in order to pass under the bridge at Fishermans Island with only around two feet of clearance.
“It was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Williams of the special boat ride.
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