Arrow-right Camera
News >  Idaho

Moving van? How about a barge

Sheriff Rocky Watson gives a tour of property where he plans to locate a 1932 log house.
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Sheriff Rocky Watson gives a tour of property where he plans to locate a 1932 log house. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

In a few days when the water in Lake Coeur d’Alene rises to summer level, one of the oldest cabins on the shore will float to a new location and begin a new chapter in its long history.

“It’s probably the ultimate recycling,” said Steve Kinniburgh, the Kalispell, Mont., mover hired to get the log home from Casco Bay to Cougar Bay.

Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson and his wife, Mary, recently bought Duane Hagadone’s 1932 “cabin” – a 4,400-square-foot home of Douglas fir and larch logs with much of its original white chinking.

The plan: load the house on a barge and float it to the next bay – about a one-mile journey that Kinniburgh expects will take an hour. Yet the preparation and staging hasn’t been so simple. The house is too long to fit on a single barge, so Caribou Creek Log Homes, of Bonners Ferry, chain-sawed the structure in two, cutting off the large master suite.

“We’re experienced working with logs every day, but to move a house of that size built back in 1932 is an experience for us,” said Norv Skrivseth, of Caribou Creek.

Crews burrowed underneath the house with jacks and other equipment to lift it onto steel beams used as tracks to roll each section to the beach.

From there the pieces were rolled onto North Idaho Maritime’s barges, where they will stay until the lake reaches its summer depth of 2,128 feet, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

Once the pieces arrive in Cougar Bay, crews will unload them using the same method and roll the house to its new foundation. Kinniburgh said that maneuver might be trickier because the bank at Cougar Bay is steep and about 7 feet higher than water level. That means crews must jack up each piece about 10 feet before sliding them on the steel beams.

“That could be a challenge,” said Kinniburgh, who has barged about six houses on Flathead Lake. “It’s not like it’s sitting on solid ground. If the winds and waves come and the boat starts rocking … it’s something.”

Hagadone sold the cabin to make room for a new 22,040-square-foot house that bears no resemblance to the quaint summer cabin built during the height of the Depression by a doctor for one of the Silver Valley mines.

The doctor sold the house to an Eastern industrialist who flew to Coeur d’Alene in a twin-engine amphibious plane, Watson said.

The Hagadone family bought it in the 1970s.

“We love its uniqueness and history,” Watson said. Kootenai County ordered Watson to stop work on the foundation in April for allegedly starting work before receiving a building permit. Watson, who disagreed that he broke the law, paid the fine and work has resumed.

The site is full of its own history – which the Watsons hope to incorporate into their new home and yard.

The Watsons bought the five-acre waterfront parcel from John Pointner, a mechanical genius with a grouchy temperament who later struck an unusual land sale deal to preserve his beloved Cougar Bay. Kootenai County and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management agreed to pay Pointner $5,000 a month until his death; he ended up receiving $125,000 from the two government agencies and is buried on a treed hillside in the sanctuary between the two bays. The 155 acres just west of where the Spokane River flows from Lake Coeur d’Alene is a public preserve known as the John C. Pointner Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary.

Rocky Watson joked that Pointner is probably keeping watch.

“I spent two years removing 120 tons of iron off this site,” Watson said, adding that some artifacts such as metal gears and pieces from steamboats will be incorporated into lawn art.

The Watsons, who made a fortune when they sold their Watson Agency security company in 2001, have lived on Rockford Bay since 1977.

Mary Watson wanted to downsize and move closer to town. The couple had intended to build a Tuscan-style home. But after their first meeting with the architect, Rocky Watson heard about the Hagadone cabin going up for sale.

He declined to disclose how much he paid but the moving cost, including the barge ride, is estimated at $140,000.

The expense is worth it to live among the birds, beavers and cattails. “There’s so much activity,” Watson said. “Just a few minutes ago there was an osprey with a fish in its mouth.”