Home will be moved ‘board-by-board’

by Tori Hamby

David Casper of Casper Builders & Electric, plans to dismantle this 100-year old farmhouse at 1200 Auten Road and reassemble it in Union County. (Courtesy of Tim O'Brien)

Before northwest Charlotte resident Von Haverlah found out that her family’s 100-year old Victorian farmhouse would not be destroyed, she had just about given up hope of preserving her treasured memories.
She and her husband, Don, had moved out of the house at 1200 Auten Road, just off of Oakdale Road, taking a few heirloom pieces, such as the home’s door and mantle with them. Resigned to losing the home due to its proximity to the Franklin Water Treatment Plant, news that a local builder plans to disassemble, move and rebuild the home at another location came as a welcome surprise.
“Until now, my husband and I had just tried to distance ourselves from the whole situation,” Haverlah said. “The whole thing had just become to devastating.”
Following the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, Charlotte began buying property around the Franklin Water Treatment Plant to protect the water supply. The Haverlah’s held out until November 2010, when they sold the homestead for $263,000. To date, the city has purchased four properties along Auten Road at a total of about $689,000.
Haverlah said she “just felt it was time” to sell the house.
“My husband and I are getting up in age, and it wouldn’t be long before we would be unable to take care of the home,” she said. “So we decided to move to Denver.”
However, with the couple’s move came grave concerns about what would happen to the home where Haverlah and her five siblings were born. While the city’s asset manager Tim O’Brien said city officials wanted to keep the home intact, one thing was certain; it couldn’t stay.
O’Brien met with potential buyers and contractors about possibly moving the house, intact, to another location, but the price tag for such a venture proved to be too hefty. Before David Casper, with Casper Builders and Electric, stepped up to dismantle the home, the only option left seemed to be to burn it to the ground.
“When I found out that burning was an option, I didn’t know what to do,” Haverlah said. “I just didn’t want to think about it anymore. It made me too upset.”
Casper, who will offer his services free-of-charge, said he is in negotiations with Union County for permits to relocate the home there. If all goes as planned, work on disassembling the home could begin in upcoming weeks.
“Things could change, but we hope to get the show on the road soon,” Casper said.
He added that the destruction of historical properties throughout Mecklenburg County inspired him to help out.
“The continued destruction of older, historical homes and buildings is something really sad to see,” Casper said. “It was just something small I felt I could do to help out the community.”
Plans for the home once it reaches its destination remain unclear.
“I’d imagine (Casper) would probably sell it,” O’ Brien said.
Haverlah said she would like to see the home somehow keep the family name Grass. Her grandfather, L.L. Grass, emigrated from Canada to the Charlotte area, where he built the house around 1881. The house had been the only home Haverlah had ever known. Her parents were married there.
“I remember grand and glorious Christmases in that house,” Haverlah said. “They were nothing eloquent, but the whole family would gather there to celebrate. Even down to the very last Christmas, we had our family over.”
She said .she recently dreamt that someone had bought the property and turned it into a restaurant, much like the former Laura’s Rozzell House Restaurant in Shuffletown. Before a fire mysteriously destroyed the home in 1990, the restaurant housed in the Civil War-era plantation home attracted patrons from far and wide, including the rock-band The Rolling Stones.
“I would like to see it used in a way that the community can enjoy it,” Haverlah said. “I would like to see its memories kept alive.”

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