Help save Aaron's grandfather's house!

Aaron sez, "The state of South Carolina has decided to put a freeway through my Grandfather's 150 year old house (built by HIS Grandfather). The Governor and the people in the planning office say the route my father worked out is fine, but they need 'public outcry' to justify moving it so if people 10 miles down the route ask why they moved it for us they can say 'hey, lots of people got pissed.' So I set up a petition which in mid-Feb. will send the results to the Governor's office and I need as many people to sign it as possible. They don't care WHO you are or WHERE you are, just so long as there is 'public outcry.'"

The home was built from trees that were cleared from the forests that now are open fields of fertile farmlands. The underpinning of the home was and still is hand-hewn logs held together by 10" wooden pegs. The original structure consisted of four equally sized rooms and the kitchen was separated from the home in the back to save the home in case of a fire in the kitchen.

In the late 1940's, the kitchen was joined to the rear of the home and three other rooms were added across the back of the house. The floors of this section were not joined evenly, and there is an approximate ten inch step down from the original section of the home to this rear section. The porch was also extended across the front and down the West side of the house. In 1957, my father, who was actually born in the home in 1916, remodeled the home, leaving the basic four rooms of the home but installing oak hardwood floors. He also left most of the original windows in rooms and by the front door, which were hand-blown glass with "wavy" imperfections and bubbles. The chimney on the East side of the house is also original which, according to family lore, has brick laid with "salt crete". It was covered with a thin layer of concrete years ago to protect it from weathering. Around 1965, dormers were added to the roof of the house and the attic was opened to house two bedrooms. And the final remodeling occurred around 1985 when the kitchen was remodeled and a carport was attached at the kitchen entrance.

Link (Thanks, Aaron!)


  1. First, let me say I’m planning on signing the petition. But I do so with qualms, and here’s why:

    In the general case, I wonder if this KIND of approach (using Boing Boing to garner public outcry) raises questions about digital equity and technoclass status abuse. If the folks who live in Greg’s alternate route, or the taxpayers who might have to pay more for a road that ends up longer, are less technosavvy, and thus can’t get as organized, then they lose — even if their case is as good as Greg’s grandfather’s case is.

    In a nutshell, what I think I’m asking is: If I CAN reach BoingBoing, does that mean it’s ethical TO use BoingBoing to hit my geographical locality?

    Fundamentally, this may be a flaw in the local stakeholders using a “public outcry, but any public will do” standard. We may not be at fault, in other words. But I think the issue worth raising, at least.

  2. Re above: Sorry — meant Aaron, not Greg — that’s what I get for doing this while teaching class, I guess. My concern still stands.

  3. I think it’d be easier to make the case to move the house than to move the proposed route. It would probably be cheaper.

    Depending on the status of the project, the cost of rerouting the freeway could be shockingly high (new surveys, legal work, probably more overall length, environmental impact analysis, etc) and taxpayers would be footing the bill. The bureaucracies and politics involved in planning roads confuse the hell out of me, and I used to work for for the people responsible for much of the planning of our state’s roads.

    I’m not saying the proposed freeway is a good idea. My urban planner brain is 99% opposed to building new roads. I’m not saying it isn’t tragic that people are forced off their land so that new subdivisions and strip malls can be built on green fields. I’m not saying that the cultural losses associated with destroying established communities aren’t huge. I’m just saying that the cost/benefit analysis of this probably doesn’t work out in Aaron’s favor.

  4. This may seem cruel, but I vote for the highway. The infrastructure in this country is terrible, and needs to be upgraded very badly. Upgraded infrastructure is something that makes life better for everybody at the expense of only a few. As long as they pay a fair market value for the property, you should have nothing to complain about.

    This will even help the struggling economy because it means jobs for the highway construction workers, and it means the supply of houses will go down, and demand for houses will go up.

    Us tech people keep complaining about how we have so little bandwidth and such poor wireless service compared to other countries. A large part of that is because of NIMBYS, BANANAS, and opposition to reasonable uses of eminent domain. I say the more building, the better. If we want to achieve great progress we should be building as much as we possibly can, not opposing every single construction project in every single town.

  5. Some of you have a lot of blind faith in the way highway routes are planned. Back in the day, it was two guys in a room with a topo map, a box of pins and some string. And that was it. There was no stay of execution. The bulldozers and were hungry and merciless and downtowns died and sprawl was what we got.

    Highways were laid out along faults because there were fewer hills, which makes for ongoing repair problems.

    Highways amputated neighborhoods, mutilated cities. In New Haven, for example, the city was cut off from its harbor. What should have been a fabulous source of urban richness became a wasteland. Then again I look at Bridgeport’s towering landfill next to the neglected Seaside Park, and I realize it could have been worse. But we were raped by I-95. It wasn’t a plan, it was an infection, a disease, a malfunction.

    Don’t assume the original route is best. And I think it is wonderful that South Carolina is willing to listen to public outcry. When it comes to gov’t, we ain’t always so lucky.

    Haven’t any of you guys ever read anything by Jane Jacobs?


  6. 1- Does this house have landmark/historical preservation status? Why not?
    2- What happens when someone 10 miles down comes up with a similar story? And if it does/doesn’t hit boingboing?

    I understand that the house/land has meaning – but everyone’s home does to them. I’m having problems understanding why this home is valued more than others in the neighborhood. The highway is going to happen – and in someone’s backyard. I don’t see a good argument as to why it shouldn’t happen in your backyard.

    I also don’t understand why relocating the home hasn’t been discussed. If this is an architectural treasure – or family treasure – the proceeds from the land claim through eminent domain should more than cover having the structure trucked to a new location. (unless its not stable enough to do so. is it ?)

    I’m not saying that there is no good argument to be made – I’m just saying that I don’t see enough info for me to cast a vote on this in your favor. I also know nothing of how the route change would affect others – just that it doesn’t hit your house.

  7. Apreche: why do we need more highways? I don’t believe our infrastructure being in bad shape means we need more (as in additional) roads. It means we need repairs made to our existing roads. That means that a new road actually diverts funds from improving what we already have.

    Additional highways is a terrible idea when the official government position is one of trying to cut back on resource usage. If you make it easier for people to live farther from where they work, they will do so. If it takes less and less time to drive 80 miles each way, then more and more people will choose to do so.

    Progress isn’t a single-faceted metric. More buildings, more roads, and more development isn’t better. In many ways it is worse. More efficient use of the developed areas we have would benefit everyone on all levels – except the developers that fail to adapt and continue hocking disposable construction farther and farther from town centers.

  8. really?

    i mean… really?

    oh whoa is you. if only the hundreds of thousands of people who have had their houses torn down for roads had the kind of voice that you do huh?

    this is really really not good for your ethical perception. i mean it looks like your garnering the power of your site to get people who most-likely aren’t even from South Carolina to sign a petition that would possibly save your grandpaw’s house but would move the route to destroy other people’s houses who don’t have this kind of power in a website.

    real classy.

  9. I recommend you give the people at the Institute for Justice ( a call. IJ has handled many cases like these, and I believe they will provide sound advice.

  10. >if only the hundreds of thousands of people who have had their houses torn down for roads had the kind of voice that you do huh? [cmt 11]

    Yes. Exactly. If only those people had spoken up.

    Or, you know — maybe they did. Maybe their voices are what got “public outcry” sections inserted into law.

    this is a democracy. public outcry is REQUIRED.

  11. The reason I signed this petition is two fold.
    In reading the history of the mans family, they’re long time residents (Revolutionary War or before). Many of the familys generations have perished in service of the country or simply provided a long standing impact (as much as one family and a large farm can) on its surrounds in South Carolina.

    Progress and renewal are important. The state of the nations transportation infrastructure is varied and often poor if not dangerous. On the other hand, and this is purely a long term view, is that in a year very few if anyone will notice a change in the highway. Even the drop of monetary requirements for redirection will be lost in the giant bucket of this highway project (and that hoping against contractor waste and the typical losses to the taxpayer).

    To paraphrase another signee many nations, centuries or millennia older than ours, understand the value of the past. The house could be moved, but how much of its innate heritage would be lost as a result? This is a rare opportunity to leave a rich facet of America intact, for itself and those that inhabit it, when so many have been ‘paved over’ to suit the current need.

    And as a small response to #2, I think a counterbalance would how many people have been made to leave their preferred circumstance (such as this) with no voice whatsoever. Its not perfect or completely balanced but in this case at least a opportunity to speak out is available. The issue will likely come up publicly in the news (needing a governors input) if the case becomes strong enough. There will be an equal opportunity for opposition at that time, especially with regards to the large corporate and government forces behind the highway project.

  12. Hi everyone, this is Aaron here (thank you BoingBoing for the help!).

    I get all the points that you guys make that a) we need roads and b) my grandfather’s house isn’t really more special than anyone else’s.

    Couple of things:

    1) Surrounding this house is lots and lots of farmland. They’re going to bulldoze a lot of this stuff anyway along with thousands of other peoples’ homes, too, and it is a shame but that’s life. I get that. The thing that my family is asking for is for the state to move it to a route that’s about 1/2 mile away. This route doesn’t destroy any building that are inhabited and isn’t any longer or more expensive. They just need some justification of why they chose this alternate route to cover their asses politically.

    2) Why doesn’t the house have historical significance enough to get noted by the historical registry? The historical society people said it was because my grandfather remodeled it. There’s a lot more detail on the petition itself, but basically it’s because it doesn’t look like a shack and people, you know, live in it.

    3) Is it ethical for me to use Boingboing? Well, if it were YOUR house (or the house your great, great grandfather built in the 1800s) what lengths would you go to to gather support to save it? My Dad has spent hours and hours at the Governor’s office and going to the public meetings. Is it ethical for him to do that? What about other people’s homes – what if those people can’t take time off work or don’t have cars or whatever.

    I’m not crying social injustice here and I’m not asking them to NOT build the road. But we plotted an alternate route that is acceptable to the state, and the ONLY thing stopping it is that they need signatures to justify them actually taking action with something they agree with? That’s just crappy. So yeah, I posted the petition and I asked BoingBoing to help.

    Cory, Xeni, Mark, David, John, and Joel, and all you Boingboingers – thank you!


  13. If only Arthur Dent had thought of doing such a thing.

    Anyway, in America, we’re always building things and tearing them down 30 years later because they’re too old. Homes like this are worth saving. If saving the house is as easy (for us, anyway) as signing a petition, then I don’t see why not, really.

  14. Did anyone else notice that the house is in North Carolina, not South Carolina…granted, it’s very close to the NC/SC state line, but why is the SC governor being petitioned to protect a piece of property that lies in a different state?

  15. The main problem I have, having signed this, is that by default it tries to sign you up for their email alerts. Aaron — any way you can turn that off? It makes light mockery of their “your privacy is important to us” words.

  16. If the house is anything like mine (mine’s a little older, actually) it has a foundation that cannot be moved or recreated today.

    My foundation is 18″ thick, built entirely from materials found within 20 miles… including the lime for the slaked lime soft mortar between the stones. Soft mortar can self-heal cracks in some environments, which is why it can outlast portland cement (again, in some environments – like mine). It won’t stand reconstruction, though, and it’s hard to find anyone who can build a proper lime-pit today.

    My foundation also has embedded within it the shells of an extinct mollusk that was necessary to the survival of the trout (now also extinct) that once inhabited this state. Now we pay for non-native rainbow trout to be trucked in from out of state so that people can fish.

    Don’t assume the state’s planning is financially sound in either the short or the long term – a healthy watershed would dramatically reduce water treatment costs and improve public health, but instead we pay taxes to have fish trucked into our watershed to die. The streams were killed in the name of “economic development”.


  17. I searched around for petition sites and this one seemed the most legit. Others just seemed less focused on the importance of privacy. On this site, you can show your name as “anonymous” and still sign the petition. Their privacy policy is pretty clear. I, personally, don’t get your addresses. Things like that.

    I’m a BoingBoing reader! I’m all hopped up about privacy and I donate to EFF. This site seemed the most likely to NOT rip off all the info, but who can say for sure?

  18. Aaron, can you post a map showing the current route and your proposed route? Do we just have to take your word for it that avoiding your house won’t cause something else objectionable to us (clearing out old-growth forest land, wiping out OTHER houses, etc.).

  19. Hmmm. I don’t have a map of the route my father worked out with the planning office. If you look at the google map of the area you can see that there aren’t that many houses out there. You’d almost have to TRY and hit a house. The change we want would move the route about one half mile to the east.

  20. also I know that the new route wouldn’t destroy any inhabited homes. There are some old, decrepit shacks scattered here and there in that whole are and I have no idea about stuff like that.

  21. i’m from south carolina, and i GLADLY signed this petition. moving the route a half-mile or so won’t hurt anyone, and i feel that historical homes should be saved at all costs.

  22. “The thing that my family is asking for is for the state to move it to a route that’s about 1/2 mile away. This route doesn’t destroy any building that are inhabited and isn’t any longer or more expensive.”

    Ok, you won me over with that !

    That should have been the #1 selling point .

  23. Disemvowel me if you want, but the single most common category of BoingBoing comment is Blame The Victim.

  24. I signed it. Great looking home and it sounds like you searched for a compromise that kept all parties happy. If you could, let BB know how the fight goes. Best of luck!

  25. I agree with Jonathan (#27). It was great to know about the historic value of the house, but knowing that you’ve pre-thought the alternate route, and that your alternate route carries LESS (or similar) cost to both state and to the locality AND cuts through NO homes, is the truly convincing argument here. Thanks for making me feel better about signing the petition.

    To the commenters who said “anyone can make a public nuisance; this is how democracy works” — those laws were created assuming local support could be won with an argument, NOT that a boing boing reader could use his familiarity with a global medium to garner support which might overwhelm the support means of those who might not happen to have learned how to connect with such global support. That isn’t the case here — but it could have been, and that ethical dilemma is real, worth serious consideration, and will come back to haunt us. Especially in a world where not every town or neighborhood has equitable access to education and a high-speed internet connection. NOT everyone can garner support like this. THAT is “the” point.

  26. Ah, so in the future the only historic monuments we have left will be those made by people whose children are Internet stars?

  27. Pretty much what’s going to happen to my whole hometown, including my parents’ historic 1900-built house, if the Trans-Texas Corridor (boo, spit, hiss Rick Perry) takes one of its possible proposed routes. But hey, those trucks will be able to travel from Canada to Mexico and back again.

  28. Re: #17, 18

    Ah, I see now. Google Maps has a Gibson, NC pointer when you use your link. When I zoom out, switch off satellite view to get my bearings with regard to the location of the state line, and then zoom back in, it doesn’t go back to the same place for some weird reason.

  29. Antinous (28), why is it that the people who think they’re in danger of disemvowelling never are, and the people who do get disemvowelled are always surprised by it?

  30. Because they didn’t read your recent comments on tone. Or they didn’t understand them. A real possibility, particularly when coupled with the refusal to let things go.

  31. The questions that I have is 1.) What is the name of the new freeway and 2.) What is the purpose of the new freeway. I didn’t see any comment on this.
    Is this part of that freeway that is suppose to be built from Myrtle Beach to somewhere up north (I believe it was Michigan) to bring more tourism?

  32. Just received an email from the petition site saying that over 2200 people signed the petition and that the huge turnout made the state rethink their position and move the freeway. So way to going BoingBoing’rs you’ve saved Aaron’s Grandfather’s House!

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