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SHACKS ON RACKS


Story
KATY NINER
Photos
KEEGAN RICE, JOEY SACKETT + AMBER BAESLER

SHACKS ON RACKS
HISTORIC PRESERVATION
SHACKSONRACKS.COM

The following pages attest to the stories held and told by homes—of individuals and families, of talents and communities coming together to carve out a place in this spectacular valley. We consider the underlying plot of Jackson as a patchwork settlement of adventurers. As such, the Town and County have become a patchwork of structures, each of which tells a distinct story about its occupants and their aspirations. However, for every story of a home told (in Homestead and beyond), there are countless untold—as Shacks on Racks attests to in their indefatigable advocacy of saving and moving existing homes rather than demoing them as trash.

Esther Judge-Lennox is all smiles as this home is repurposed.
Esther Judge-Lennox is all smiles as this home is repurposed.

Having lived in Jackson since high school, Esther Judge-Lennox connected the dots between the homes she knew and loved being torn down to make way for new builds, and the untenable real estate dynamics she experienced as a Jackson local. Her personal tipping point: in 2016, she and her husband built a 900 square foot home and immediately realized their ensuing mortgage far exceeded their budget; they couldn’t afford to live in the home they had just worked so hard to build. As a solution, Judge-Lennox found a 1941 craftsman slated for demolition and spent $50,000 (plus countless hours figuring out the logistics of) moving the historic house to their property as an Accessory Rental Unit. The rental income covers almost 50 percent of their mortgage, enabling them to stay in their home in the valley. “Shacks on Racks was born out of desperation,” she says. “We have all seen our community change so much, but there wasn’t a clear line of sight connecting the dots of what was actually happening.”

Then as now, her work fills gaps in services: not only has she fine-tuned the process of mobilizing resources and professionals to relocate older homes, but she also bridges the divide between documentation and action by logging every demolition permit submitted to the Town, and tracking projects poised to begin in the County (where demo permits are not required). Relocating an old(er) home helps preserve housing stock amid the housing crisis, while simultaneously averting the environmental burden of its demolished materials ending up in a landfill. “I’m trying to reframe everyone’s thinking,” she says.

EVERY HOUSE IS WORTHY OF MOVING, NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL.
—ESTHER JUDGE-LENNOX, SHACKS ON RACKS

To underscore Shack’s connection to housing, Judge-Lennox asks her clients to become members of Shelter JH, a membership-based 501c4 building advocacy group centered around workforce housing, “because without systemic change we will continue to cobble together unsustainable solutions instead of creating real, lasting solutions that support the longevity of our community,” explains the Shacks website.

“Every house is worthy of moving, no matter how big or small,” Judge-Lennox says. And yet, “for every house that I move, five fall through. Since 2003, almost 400 homes have been demolished in the Town of Jackson, and we’ve moved less than 5 percent of those. We all need to work together to save our community.”

Homes, old and new, tell stories worth listening to, learning from, and if no longer resonant onsite, recontextualizing—whenever, wherever possible.