Labor Day 2023 was a momentous occasion for many who gathered at the corner of JEB Stuart Highway and Central Academy Road to watch the moving of the Hopkins/Carter house. Much like a tailgate party, there were coolers and chairs, summer hats, and homemade cake. The grandchildren of J.D. “Jim” Hopkins, who built the large, two-story farmhouse, and the present owners, the children of A.C. and Lillian Carter, who were the second owners of the home, were especially pleased to see the house spared from new road construction by being moved several yards to the east.
Highway 58, previously known as Wytheville-Danville Turnpike, is the connector road between Stuart and Meadows of Dan. It is being upgraded to a four-lane highway to better manage mountain traffic; the familiar Hopkins/Carter landmark was standing in the way of the new route so would either be destroyed or relocated. The house was built in 1918, and locals who have observed the house, some daily, were also happy to see the landmark being preserved.
Jim Hopkins and his family were farmers in the Buffalo Ridge section of Patrick County and moved to the Central Academy area in 1910. According to an account recorded in Patrick County Heritage, Volume I, by A.D. Hopkins, Jr., the family was moved by two ox-drawn wagons to the new location to run a store. They later built the house for their expanding family. The home had an indoor bathroom and electricity, both unusual for that time period. Nancy Smart, nearly 90 years old and a grandchild of Jim, who was watching the move, recalled sitting on the edge of the bathtub washing her feet before bedtime, as she would have gone barefoot all day.
At some point, Route 58 was moved several yards to the west, which left the back side of the home facing the present-day highway. So, as the house was being repositioned, it had to be rotated a quarter turn so the front would face Central Academy Road.
As onlookers patiently awaited the beginning of the move, they were in awe that there was no heavy equipment on site to move the house. They learned that all of the moving would be done by remote control. The house had been elevated and wheels placed underneath. This was puzzling as all the wheels seemed to be facing different directions. Employees of Wolfe House and Building Movers, from Bernville, PA, were busily working all around the house preparing for it to move.
Eventually, the operator of a small remote device squatted near the corner of the house, and very, very slowly, the house began to move. Excitement among the crowd heightened as the fascinating concept became a reality. One had to focus on a nearby stationary object to actually see the movement of the house, as it proceeded so slowly. It had to be moved a little and then stopped to re-shuffle the boards that were placed under the wheels for each short move. Appalachian Power Company was present to move a power line, and several trees had been cut to make way for the move.
After several hours, the house had been turned and reached its final destination. Not a brick had fallen from the two chimneys in the house, and not a chair had moved an inch on the porch. Three of the Carter children who lived in the house after their family bought it in 1968 sat on a glider on the side porch as the house was moved the final few feet.
Feelings of sadness, happiness, nervousness, and excitement were expressed. Many relatives, all five Carter children, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, five of Lillian’s siblings, grandchildren of Jim Hopkins, plus neighbors and friends were present to witness the migration of this 100+-year-old country home. Much work will still need to be done, but a sigh of relief could be felt at the end of this memorable Labor Day celebration.