Workspaces: On My Barge

Jerry Rouleau's 3,100-square-foot show home, Jan's House of Hope, is a seafaring vessel like no other.

By Patrick L. O’Toole, Senior Editor | June 30, 2001

This summer, Jerry Rouleau is bringing a new meaning to the term houseboat.

After three years of planning, his vision for a cancer fund-raiser that blends building industry contacts with a knack for publicity set sail from Portsmouth, N.H., on the deck of a rented, 9,000-square-foot barge. Rouleau’s 3,100-square-foot show home, Jan’s House of Hope, is a seafaring vessel like no other.

“When people see it on water, they may get the impression that it broke free from Nantucket,” says Kelly Romigh of the National Cancer Awareness Foundation, a partner in the fund-raiser. By the time the show home enters its final port, Norfolk, Va., later this month, after stops in Boston, Branford, Ct., New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore, Rouleau estimates that $10 million will have been raised for 21 local cancer charities and hospices.

Named for his late wife, Jan, a victim of breast cancer, the home is a credit to a large number of builders and suppliers, Rouleau says. A consortium of 15 systems-built housing companies contributed to the modular home’s construction at a factory in New Hampshire. Another 125 builders donated time, labor and materials. “It is probably the ultimate builder care program as far as I am concerned,” Rouleau says.

Coast Guard rules governing the transport of cargo prohibit people from occupying the house while at sea. Meanwhile, with the help of special riggings designed by a naval architect, the home has come through its voyages with no damage — even after it experienced stormy waters between Boston and Connecticut.

“Not a single nail popped,” Rouleau says.

After it’s all over, Rouleau says he’ll be back at work as a marketing consultant to builders and suppliers and will resume his posts on various NAHB committees.


Ocean going: Jerry Rouleau loaded this 3,1000-square-foot show home onto a barge and is sailing into several East Coast ports to raise money for cancer.