By Shelley Grieshop
PHILOTHEA -- People lined the roadway in lawn chairs, munched on hot dogs and reminisced about the good ol' days -- as a 110-ton, three-story house rolled on by.
Only in Philothea, you might say.
It was moving day for the former St. Mary church rectory that over the years was home to a stream of Catholic priests since its construction in 1905. Due to a shortage of priests and the "clustering" of parishes in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the building was no longer needed to house a resident priest and was sold to a local couple in July.
"I grew up here, just about three miles down the road," says Stephanie Bruns, who purchased the home with her fiance, Brad Wendel. The couple plans to marry in November.
Prior to Monday, the home was lifted from its foundation and prepared for the big day. Then, as spectators gawked and clicked cameras, the building was driven across the street, through a recently cut soybean field, and to its final destination a few hundred yards away to the east. Bruns, 21, recalled entering the "beautiful, big and sturdy" house as a child.
"The woodwork inside is still beautiful," she says, adding the couple plans to do extensive remodeling.
Wendel, who grew up in nearby St. Anthony, said "things just started to fall in place" once he and Bruns decided to purchase the four-bedroom home and a nearby lot.
Neighbors in the small community were relieved when the church council found buyers who agreed to move the home from its location. The alternative, after a failed auction in May, was to destroy the landmark home.
The last priest to occupy the home was the Rev. Louis Barga, C.PP.S., who also watched Monday's event.
"I think they'll (Bruns and Wendel) put it to good use," says Barga, who lived in the home from 1991-2002, before retiring to St. Charles Center in Carthagena. "See that double window in the front? That was my quarters."
Several local women who boasted of receiving the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and marriage in the nearby church, also watched in anticipation as the house began to move from its longtime domain.
"I cooked and cleaned in that place for several years," said Rita Bruns who now will be the home's new neighbor. "It's a big house, I know that kitchen well."
Dozens of people, including the electric crews who cleared the area's power lines, enjoyed an impromptu picnic lunch outside before the house began its 15-minute journey. Neighbors followed behind like a pilgrimage as the home, looking like a giant balloon in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, crept homeward. It was a sight indeed.
Only in Philothea.