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New chapter for home that once belonged to L.M. Montgomery's ancestor

The insides of the old Montgomery house lay in front as the 227-year-old house is prepared to move.
The insides of the old Montgomery house lay in front as the 227-year-old house is prepared to move.

MALPEQUE, P.E.I. – It was a heart-stopping moment for Rudy Petrella.

Rudy Petrella, left, and his son Joshua, outside the old Montgomery home in Malpeque.

He stood, yards away from his childhood summer home as the 227-year-old-house was lifted and placed on a new foundation.

On Aug. 21, the old Montgomery house on Montgomery Road found its new home not far from the site where it was originally erected.

The home once belonged to Hugh Montgomery, the great-great-grandfather of Island author L.M. Montgomery, and is believed to be one of the oldest homes on the Island.

“My grandfather bought the house in the 1950s. He fell in love with the Island and brought my mother and her siblings to the Island every summer from New Jersey.”

The tradition continued with Petrella when he was about eight.

“What is there for a young boy to do with two people in their 60s and 70s?”

“I would sit outside and hear the birds chirping the flies and bees buzzing. It was like a musical was going on around you. There was a bog down the road. It was something out of a book.”

With a connection to the area, similar to Anne’s with the Island, Petrella remembers the feeling of coming to the Island every summer.

“It’s why I wanted to see the house saved for future generations. It came to the point of moving it or fixing the bank. It was becoming a safety concern for my family,” said Petrella.

When he was 13, Petrella had to fix the foundation in the basement of the home as it had started to crumble. His grandparents being elderly, were unable to do the work.

“I remember before the move, I stood where I had worked all those years ago and said to the house, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to carry or not, but it’s time you give me back some of my sacrifice.’”

Over the years, the family had lost about 200 to 300 feet of shoreline due to erosion.

Finally, Petrella’s mother gave the OK to move the house away from the shore.

Petrella surveyed the land boundaries, got all the permits needed, sent building inspectors to the site and had the drawings created.

But in order to move the house, the insides had to be gutted.

“I hired a local carpenter, John Stetson, who had experience working with older homes. He helped with the beams that needed to be replaced and the floors,” said Petrella.

Then Waugh’s Construction of Summerside joined the project.

“With a house like this, there has to be good stills in place before it is moved,” said Kenny Waugh.

“There needed to be two or three new ones put in place to make sure the structure was sound before moving got underway.”

With the project ready for the final phase, Egmont Bay Construction had the foundation laid for the move, said Petrella.

“I tell you it was the best birthday ever. They let me make the final decision giving the OK to drop the house. I bet there were doors in that house opened for the first time in 100 years.”

Now Petrella and his son, Joshua, can’t wait for next summer to start the next phase of the restoration.

“He was in the trenches with me for the project. He got a little emotional when we talked about what would happen if the house didn’t carry over. He was really worried for me.”

Petrella said the home isn’t just a special place for him anymore.

“It has allowed me a new connection with my son. He loves coming here and staying on the Island. Hopefully it will also be a special place for my youngest son who is nine months old. We can’t wait to share it with him.

“We’re going to bring the home back to how it used to be, what I remember it to be.”

Millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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