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Can a 1100 ton mansion be moved?

August 26, 2009 8:46:56 PM PDT
It's one of the most familiar homes on Philadelphia's Main Line and some are looking for its savior. Could 41-year-old Florida developer Benjamin Wohl be the savior of the Main Line mansion known as La Ronda?

"We're optimistic because it doesn't make any sense to demolish this building if there's a way to save it," Lori Salganicoff of the Lower Merion Conservancy said.

La Ronda's Mediterranean revival style looks to many like it belongs in Florida; that 's because it was a rare northern commission for architech Addison Mizner, who defined Palm Beach style.

La Ronda's current owner, who refuses to be identified, sparked a firestorm last spring with the request to tear it down and replacing it with a contemporary home.

That is when Wohl stepped in and offered a six figure sum to buy the mansion, move it, and live in it. He says it would delay the current owners only 90 days.

"It's a win-win for everyone, we again are just trying to do the right thing and we hope they will listen to us," Wohl said.

Wohl has done this task before. In Palm Beach, he saved another Mizner mansion, moved it, and lives in it. Today, he brought the same movers to eyeball La Ronda. It's 200 feet long and weighs an estimated 1,100 tons.

Can it be moved? Yes, at a rate of a few inches an hour.

"It's obviously a fragile structure, not all movers can move it, but we've accomplished it before," house mover Jeremy Brownie said.

So where do you move a mansion? Well, how about next door? The proposal is to take La Ronda, all of it, including its three story tower, south about 3 football fields where, luck would have it, there is an acre for sale.

Preservationists and neighbors met Wohl Wednesday night and there was a sense of fingers crossed.

So the question now, come September, will La Ronda be moving or be the target of a wrecking crew?


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