Old Westport house turns to enjoy new view


Rick and Mary Sullivan Smith are thrilled with the elderly bungalow they bought a decade ago and love its 1962 Main Road location at Westport Point.

All would have been nearly perfect there but for one thing — the house faced the wrong way.

Instead of looking out to Main Road like its neighbors, the house's big front porch faced to the side and to Cunningham Lane, a laneway that dates back to the Point's shipbuilding days.

In so doing, the house turned a not so welcoming shoulder to Main Road passersby.

"It's a really cool old house with a wonderful porch in a great place and we bought it with an eye to it being our full-time house," Mr. Smith said. "So we decided to move it."

Though the planned move would be a short one, about 30 feet with a rotation toward Main Road, the changes were significant in a historic district whose look has scarcely changed in many generations. In addition to the move, they wanted to add a first floor master bedroom to what would be the rear (east) side of the house to make it more comfortable.

The Smiths took their ideas to the Historic District Commission.

"We knew changes in a historic district can be challenging but the commission was wonderful to work with" — supportive with lots of good ideas.

"It was very important to us that the changes work for the neighborhood," he said. "We wouldn't have wanted to do anything that would diminish" either the house or the area's historic character.

Built in 1918 by a New Bedford plumber as a summer cottage, the bungalow has three bedrooms (and will still have three when they are done) and sat on a rubble foundation.

"There's nothing like the old construction," Mr. Smith said, and we wanted "to keep the integrity intact."

Plans eventually approved, they hired Adamsville contractor Dennis Talbot to handle the project. He, in turn, brought in Portsmouth-based Aquidneck Movers to lift the house and set it on its new foundation — this time with a full basement.

Aquidneck Movers "has been moving all sorts of things for about 300 years so I don't think this is too difficult for them."

Last week, the movers hoisted the house off the old foundation and set it on blocks.

The couple — he works in Wakefield, she in Boston— missed that but stopped down later for a look.

Their 12-year-old golden retriever Tucker seemed perplexed, he said, and tried without success to find a way into his house that now stood about 8 feet in the air.

Since the house had to be disconnected from all utilities  and much work remains to be done after the move, they won't be able to settle back in until spring.

They'll live in their other house up closer to Boston until then, "and friends have been wonderful about offering us places to stay down here for which we are very grateful."

Friends first introduced them to Westport and the Smiths "searched for awhile for a place we liked and could afford." Despite the house's funny alignment, they say they couldn't be happier with what they found.

"I love to fish and shellfish and I'm very happy when I'm on the river," Mr. Smith said.

"And my wife and I both love the way Westport preserves its open spaces. The way people respect the land means a lot to us … It is a wonderful community, one of the last of its kind along the coast."

"We are lucky people."



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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc., email mrego@eastbaynewspapers.com.