House moving business touches generations

Sarah Wakefield Rosser

MIDDLEBURG – Making a wide right turn onto the four lane roadway, diesel fumes filled the cool pre-dawn Sunday morning air as the truck loaded with a house on its bed pulled away from a wooded lot.

On March 6, workers from Hygema House Movers removed the white house with green trim from its foundation and crawled along area roads at 10 miles per hour. They left 3332 Old Jennings Road and drove to the home’s final resting place on Bronco Road in Middleburg before most of Clay County was awake and driving.

“The owner of the house is giving it away to someone to set up on their own lot,” said Jake Boyles of Hygema House Movers. “He’s giving it away so it has been a few years. He’s tried to give it away but he finally found someone to take it.”

Hygema was established in 1927 and Boyles’ grandfather, Albert Boyles Sr., purchased the house-moving company in the 1950’s. Today, the family business focuses on structural and foundational repair, house leveling, heavy hauling and rigging, and crawlspace ventilation among other services. Often, the company works with the state and county government to relocate buildings, regardless of what they are made – brick, siding, concrete or wood.

To move this house, weighing 25 tons and standing less than 20 feet tall, a foundation of steel beams was placed under the structure. Using hydraulic dollies, the house was lifted onto the back of the movers’ diesel truck that Boyles remembers riding around in when he was five.

“We’ve been doing it so long,” Boyles said. “I’ve been doing it now for six years but I remember riding in that same green truck when I was five-years-old. It’s a family thing. It’s in my blood.”

The house standing about 18.5 feet high was moved once before by Boyles’ grandfather.

“This is actually the second time we’ve moved this house,” Boyles said. “My grandfather, Albert J. Boyles Sr., moved this house from Collins Road to Old Jennings in the 1960’s or 70’s. I’m the third generation and my dad is the current [company] owner. He and my uncle have been doing this together since the 1980’s.”

Moving a house takes two to three months of logistical organization, permits and paperwork through the Florida Department of Transportation and other agencies. Moving the house cost $20,000 and required assistance from officials from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office who directed the truck south on Branan Field Road across Blanding Boulevard to County Road 220 toward its resting place. Employees of the Clay Electric Cooperative followed the house in case of issues with maneuvering the house around powerlines, stop signs and street signs.

“We’re here for safety on their part,” said Dennis Callaway of Clay Electric. “We won’t have to be taking any powerlines down. If there is anything that does have to be moved, ideally it’s all premeasured and hopefully we won’t have to, but occasionally we do have to move lines out of the way.”

In preparation for the move, Boyles and his team drove the route to make sure the house fit between trees on the sides of the roads, construction and overpasses.

“First you have to find a route to get the structure out,” Boyles said. “We drive the route, measure the structure and measure the route. You ride the route to make sure you won’t hit any guard rails or street signs. Sometimes, we have to pull up mailboxes and street signs and power lines. If the power lines are too low we have to get in touch with power and cable companies to lower or raise them.”

Boyles said that moving a home can be better for the environment.

“It’s a good form of recycling instead of using everything it takes to build a new one it’s better for the environment to move it down the road,” Boyles said. “We’re going green.”

Boyle’s grandfather, Albert Jacob Boyles, Sr. bought the company in the 1950’s and operated by the family since. This year, the company has four moves on the books including a two story house in Bartow, Fla.

The largest building Hygema moved was in 1994 when the City of Jacksonville relocated its Historical Fire Museum, which weighed approximately 600 tons and was transported on land. The largest building the company transported by barge was approximately 350 tons.