Got something big in your way? Charles and Roger Matthews will move it for you.
Forget fax or e-mail, though, since you'll never reach them with those. But if you still remember how to dial a telephone and need the job done expertly and for a fair price, they'd be happy to help out.
A third-generation family business, Charles Matthews Ltd. has been moving all types of structures out of the way since 1910.
On a crisp October morning, I got to witness the Matthews brothers in action in Markham's Box Grove community as they transported a heritage house across a dusty, barren construction site, which TACC Construction will eventually turn into a lush, livable community.
The company hired the brothers to orchestrate the move.
When I arrived to meet TACC's Peter Hoffman, the 180,000-kilogram John Raymer house had already been plucked from its foundation and was creeping along behind a big rig and two bulldozers to its destination at the corner of 14th Avenue and 9th Line.
Perched atop bright orange I-beams, the structure's meticulously planned and carefully executed journey was a sight that Mr. Raymer or his son John -- who built the house for his father in 1878 -- would have appreciated had they been alive, since that same care and planning is also required to make cheese.
John Raymer, you see, had gone to Evan's Mill, N.Y., in 1866 to carefully study cheese-making methods, knowledge that he then brought back home to Markham, building and operating one of the first cheese factories in Ontario.
And, like cheese making, house moving is both an art and a science.
Sometimes a gut-feeling works better than all the computer programs in the world when determining the position of the beams and wedges that balance the house after it's been jacked up off its foundation, or where the hydraulic wheels will be attached to those beams.
"Apparently, down in the states now, there's a gentleman [who has]a computer disk out. He can tell you exactly where to place all this stuff," Charles Matthews says with a shrug. "We do it the old-fashioned way: We just walk around and say it should be here, here and here."
Using only their brains, muscle and some powerful machinery, the award-winning Matthews brothers have successfully moved just about everything during their long and storied careers, including an 80-foot high by 80-foot wide oil tank on Toronto's waterfront, "the odd airport hangar," the old stone jail in Beaverton, most of the buildings in Black Creek Pioneer Village, and their current stock-and-trade, heritage houses.
The Raymer house -- a handsome two-storey red and buff brick Victorian farmhouse with a large bay window and a centrally located front door with sidelights and fan transom -- is just the latest in a list of hundreds that the Matthews brothers have helped save in virtually every corner of Ontario.
Years ago, when land was a lot cheaper, Charles Matthews says they moved houses for private individuals all the time.
In fact, so many houses were being trucked about back then the industry was able to support something like 15 or 20 businesses, he says.
Nowadays, with only large developers moving heritage houses (in exchange for extra density and other goodies) and a few sales offices or school portables needing relocation now and again, the brothers find themselves the last men standing in the Toronto area.
Which makes them a rare breed. So rare, in fact, that startup structural movers from across the province come running when they hear the legendary Matthews brothers are out hauling something big. Often, the newbies will work gratis in order to learn their secrets, which suits the brothers just fine, since they've "got a thousand tricks" and can cut entire days off the job with the extra manpower.
Unearthing native artifacts, guns, bones and even the odd time capsule is all in a day's work for this hard-working duo, who have simply handed over their findings to the various landowners who have employed them.
With rainfall and soft ground the only real enemy, the brothers have enjoyed decades of success as the GTA's pre-eminent structural movers and plan to keep working for a good many more years.
"It keeps us healthy," says Roger. "We've got all our fingers," his brother Charles adds with a laugh.
Dave LeBlanc hosts The Architourist on CFRB Sunday mornings. Inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.