Parking Your House Near Harvard Yard

Palfrey House slowly rolls into its new location on Hammond Street

Roberta BEATRIZ A. camacho

The 162-year-old, 200-ton Palfrey House was hoisted onto a hydraulic system and pulled to its new location on Hammond St. atop a five-story underground parking garage.

After sitting sadly for 11 months in the corner of a Divinity School parking lot, the elegant, 162-year-old Palfrey House was again the center of attention as it rolled to its permanent home on Hammond Street this weekend.

To pave the way for an underground parking lot, the house—built by the first dean of the Divinity School and acquired by Harvard in 1916—was hauled from its original location and stuck behind Conant Hall on Oxford Street.

Once the roof of the underground garage was complete, the time was right to give Palfrey House a real home.

Light rain fell on the crew of 15 construction workers Saturday who maneuvered the 200-ton house with a hydraulic system and giant sets of wheels that resembled aircraft landing gear.

Passers-by, catching a glimpse of a 6,000-square-foot structure inching across the parking lot, stopped and looked on, often at a loss for words.

Taking a break to sip coffee from the back of a pick-up truck, construction workers snapped pictures and one man even whipped out his video camera.


About 20 local residents braved Saturday’s bleak weather to watch the spectacle.

One elderly gentleman in pink trousers who refused to identify himself asked if the building was lost. He seemed pleased to learn that it was actually going home.

“I hope they’re obeying the speed limit,” he commented, as construction workers began a complicated set of turns to parallel-park the Greek revival next to its new foundation.

Palfrey House will be settled on top of a five-story underground parking garage, which is scheduled to be finished at the end of next year.

At 7 a.m., construction workers and professional movers from Northeast Construction Company arrived on the scene. By 8:30, the house had been eased onto a 50-ton hydraulic system and was making its way north to the cranking of pulleys and the sputtering of tractors.

By 1 p.m., the house was preparing to make a sharp left turn that would leave it facing its new neighbors on Hammond Street.

For Eddy N. Couturier, who founded Northeast Building Movers in 1983, this was a typical day’s work.

Couturier has moved between 1,000 and 1,500 buildings over the course of his career. A recent job involved raising a 400-ton brick building up one floor to make room for a ground-level shopping center.

Couturier, clad in jeans, workboots, and a white hardhat, could be seen underneath Palfrey House directing his team, which skillfully engineered each turn.

Site manager Steve Masiello, who stepped back to survey the house as it inched across the parking lot, said this job was relatively simple, as the house was in good repair. Only its chimney needed to be supported during the move.