Help with estimate

Hi there,
I am in the Boston area, and I recently had some contractors look at a situation in my house, and I would like the common man's opinion about the information I have received, so here goes:
We live in a ~105 year old house that has a dip toward the center. You see, the main beam was (and really still is, save for some adjustable posts we put there for now) supported only in the center by a brick column that has shrunk (or has lowered with the floor, as it were).
As a result, we can feel the dip toward the center of the house in all rooms, but in the back of the house more (apparently there's heavier stuff there, like the kitchen, which caused just a bit more droop on that side). There's also a bit of bounce in the floors, basically limited to the very center between each beam span on either side of the existing brick column.
What we have been looking to do is to add support columns for the beam and possibly to jack up the beam to a somewhat more level position than it is now. My primary concern is not getting things level per se, because I know I can do that with flooring (although leveling it somewhat would be great if it's feasible). My bigger concern is to rid ourselves of the bounce.
One estimate (the most recent) was for about $2900 (or 3200 with some cosmetics to touch up the brick column that's in unsightly condition). While talking with the crew, they mentioned that they might need to cut a small vertical line in the beam over the center column in order to give it room to squish together as it goes back to level. Although I know these guys are professionals, I have hestiations about that for a few reasons:
1. Has anyone ever heard of doing this?? Everything I find in research suggests that the jacking needs to take place slowly -- not by cuttin out a slim v-shaped slice and basicly bending it on its hinge back together!
2. I am convinced in my heart that if I do this, when we go to sell the place a home inspector will point out this cut in the beam as some sort of "serious structural issue with the beam" and frighten off potential buyers.
3. Well, I guess my gut makes me feel like it's quite crazy to allow someone to cut into the main support for my house, plain and simple!!
Does anyone have any experience with work like this? As for the rest of the scope of work in the estimate, it included: * Digging and pouring footing to a depth of up to 4 feet (sounded really deep to me, but what do I know) * Making any adjustments to heating duct or other pipe placement that may need to be rerouted to accomodate the work equipment, etc. * Manufacturing steel plates to put above the two new columns and to serve as a shim above the shrunken brick column. * the other, usual ancillary items
I would love to hear from anyone who has been through a job like mine. Thanks in advance for your opinions. By the way, if you live in the Boston area, too, and would like to recommend whoever did your work, drop me a private line. : )
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We live in an 1836 house with joist spans of about 17'8". The floor of the central stair hall was badly deformed. We bought two jacks used to support semi trailers and ratched them up a click a week. We placed a wood member between the jack and house structure to avoid crushing. We had a brick wall built below each bearing wall to reduce span and spread the load. I trust and continue to work with the contractor on the job. However, I insisted on several arrangements with which he did not agree. I suggest you get an architect or engineer to look at the "shrinking column" before you continue.
TB
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