FITCHBURG -- Truck driver Dana Parker's phone rang Monday at 7:30 a.m. His boss at the towing company he works for was calling with an unusual assignment: Move a house.

"I said, 'Oh (expletive),' " Parker said. "That's the truth, too."

Parker, 70, has been driving trucks since he was 16. He moved a house once before -- 50 years ago.

"It was a little bit nerve-wracking," said Parker, who works for Shepherd's Sales & Service, of Townsend, referring to Monday's move. "It was a little bit hectic, but there were no problems."

The 200-yard trip the single-family home made from its original location at 242 High St., in Fitchburg, to a lot at the corner of Elm and Johnson streets was not completely free of complications, however.

At one point, the corner of the house's roof scraped the top of a utility pole. Moments later, the structure came inches from getting caught against the trunk of a leafy tree hugging a property on Elm Street.

"Stop!" shouted a worker with Admiral Building Movers, the Goffstown, N.H., company hired by the city to orchestrate the move.

Parker hit the brakes.

"They just want to cut that knob off," said a Unitil worker in a white hard hat.

Soaring 30 feet in the air on a hydraulic lift, the worker fired up a chain saw and carved into the tree, slicing off a crescent-shaped piece of its trunk. Sawdust fell softly on the dozens of neighbors gathered outside to watch the move.

"No big deal," Parker said afterward of the hiccup.


"If I had known what was going on outside the truck, I probably would have been a nervous wreck, but I didn't get out. I stayed right in."

The city purchased the single-family home at 242 High St., for $100,000 after it was discovered that a nearby retaining wall was unstable and at risk of collapsing.

At the same time, the city was looking to build a single-family home on a vacant lot at the corner of Elm and Johnson. The home that previously stood on that property was a "triple-decker drug house," according to city Housing Director Ryan McNutt, that was demolished in partnership with the Twin Cities Community Development Corp.

Rather than build a new house on the site, officials decided to move the home from High Street to the vacant lot.

The city expects to sell the house for about $135,000 to $145,000, McNutt said. Although the cost of purchasing the home and moving it to its new location will total $250,000, McNutt said any money the city loses in the deal will be offset by improvements to the neighborhood.

"It's unique where it costs a little bit more, but over time it has a catalyzing effect, where it's not really a money issue," McNutt said. "It's more of a neighborhood-improvement issue. The outcome will pay off in leaps and bounds in terms of just a much better neighborhood, as long as we continue this strategy."

The house's move spawned a parade-like atmosphere in the neighborhood. Residents spilled onto the streets, many recording the event with their cellphone cameras.

"I come from a big city, so it's not every day that you see a big huge house coming down a really tight street," said Judy Sanchez, an Elm Street resident originally from New York City.

Sanchez's 4-year-old daughter exclaimed that "a new house is being built in the middle of the street" when she first saw the structure roll by.

Hot dogs and hamburgers sizzled on a grill next door. Kenny Cochran and Selena Boulanger passed the food out to hungry neighbors.

"We're getting into it," said Boulanger, spatula in hand. "This is my first time seeing something like this, so I'm a little shocked."

James Copeland, of High Street, had a theory for why the move attracted a large audience, and it had something to do with Unitil cutting power to the neighborhood for the move.

"They ain't got electricity -- what else they got to do?" Copeland said. "I could be doing a lot of different things than this."

Brenda Piccard-Muniz, a Gardner resident who works for the Twin Cities CDC, had been looking forward to Monday's move for months.

"This is the first time I've ever seen this other than on TV on the Discovery Channel," she said. 

The house reached its destination around noon. Workers were planning to roll the structure onto the foundation today, if the weather cooperates.

Meanwhile, after safely guiding the house down the street, Parker removed his red and gold "Once a Marine, always a Marine" baseball cap and wiped sweat from his forehead. The Pepperell resident, who served in the military from 1962 to 1968, said the move was "no big deal."

"I wasn't even looking at the mirrors or anything," he said.

Follow Chris Camire on Twitter @chriscamire.