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How a house mover saved an $800K Otter Tail County lake cabin from becoming a 'gorgeous raft'

In 1997, a crumbling lakeshore forced LeRoy Bernstein, owner of Valley House Movers of Fargo, to move this large log cabin on an 85-foot bluff overlooking Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County. Forum News Service

When he was speaker of the North Dakota House of Representatives, LeRoy Bernstein, Fargo, could get that House moving, as he was "a brilliant leader of men," a man who knew him says.

But this story is of his moving another kind of house; actually, a lake cabin.

It comes from an admiring friend of his, R. Tracy Myers, 84, a retired contractor who lives in both Fargo and Arizona. He worked for Olaf Anderson and Son Construction Co. for 35 years before retiring in 1995.

Tracy writes that in 1997, Ace Brandt, Fargo, purchased a large log cabin on an 85-foot bluff overlooking Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County, Minn.

The previous owner had removed all of the vegetation and trees from the cliff to build a trail down to the lake. But because the stabilizing vegetation had been removed, the bank was dropping into the lake, and the $800,000 cabin also was about to fall in.

"Ace hired me to get the cabin moved back off the cliff and set on a new foundation wall," Tracy says. "I told Ace that I would only agree to take on the job if I could talk LeRoy Bernstein into moving the structure."

LeRoy was owner of Valley House Movers in Fargo. His sons Mark and Tim worked side by side with him for many years.

Anyhow, Tracy says, "I told Ace, 'If we move this cabin we're lucky, and if we don't, you will be the owner of the most gorgeous raft on Pelican Lake.'

"He agreed. And that's where LeRoy comes into play."

The move was made in the late summer of 1997. "It was a large project with a tremendous amount of public interest from Pelican Lake land owners and Otter Tail County officials," Tracy says.

"The garage was cut off and moved first, then the main cabin.

"Don Guida, of Park Rapids, Minn., was the fellow who cut the trees, made the logs and hand-built the original cabin, and he helped get the garage cut off.

"LeRoy and his crew went under the structure, on a very unstable bank. They raised the cabin along with a huge rock fireplace, moved it back 120 feet from the shore, lowered it three feet and rotated it about 15 degrees for a better view of the lake.

"The move took place on a Thursday afternoon, and the bank collapsed that Saturday evening during a thunderstorm.

"After the cabin was set on the new foundation," Tracy says, "I went through the interior to check for cracks and such. I opened the door to the shower off the upstairs master bedroom, and there was a shampoo bottle on its cap. Incredibly, the bottle had not tipped over during the move."

Turkey farming, house moving

LeRoy was born in Minneapolis in 1930. He began working in heavy equipment and structure-

moving right after graduating from high school. He spent six months in the Army, but received a medical discharge after being injured.

He and his wife, Kathleen, were married in 1954. They moved to Amery, Wis., where LeRoy raised turkeys. Then they moved to Spring Lake Park, Minn., and finally in 1965 to Fargo, where they remained and where he formed Valley House Movers with his partner Larry Heyd.

LeRoy, a Republican, was elected to the Legislature in 1988. He retired from the moving business in 1997, but kept his legislative seat. He was elected speaker in 2001.

He continued serving in the Legislature until 2006.

He was preceded in death by his wife. He died last Jan. 4 at age 86.

He left many memories behind, including how he moved that cabin.

"Because he did such a magnificent job (on that move)," Tracy says, "Pelican Lake was spared. He truly was a genius.

"Any history of Pelican Lake has to mention LeRoy Bernstein."

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.

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