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Structure relocation

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Structure relocation

Hydraulically powered dollies move a historic 19th century brick church in Salem, Massachusetts.

A structure relocation is the process of moving a structure from one location to another. There are two main ways for a structure to be moved: disassembling and then reassembling it at the required destination, or transporting it whole. For the latter, the building is first raised and then may be pushed on temporary rails or dollies if the distance is short. Otherwise, wheels, such as flatbed trucks, are used. These moves can be complicated and require the removal of protruding parts of the building, such as the chimney, as well as obstacles along the journey, such as overhead cables and trees.

Reasons for moving a building range from commercial reasons such as scenery, to preserving an important or historic building. Moves may also be made simply at the whim of the owner, or to separate a building from the plot of land that it stands on.


Elevating a whole structure is typically done by attaching a temporary steel framework under the structure to support the structure. A network of hydraulic jacks is placed under the framework and controlled by a unified jacking system, elevates the structure off the foundation. An older, low-technology method is to use building jacks called screw jacks or jackscrews which are manually turned.

With both types of jacking systems described here wood beams called cribs, cribbing or box cribs are stacked into piles to support both the structure and the jacks as the structure is lifted in increments. Once the structure is at a sufficient height, a flat bed truck or hydraulic dollies are placed under the steel framework to support moves to the final destination. After the move the structure is lowered reversing the steps just applied.

Reasons for moving a structure

There are several reasons why a structure may be moved. For example, a redevelopment, such as urban regeneration, could cause a relocation. Additionally, it has been purchased and the buyer wishes to move it, for reasons such as the scenery from the building. The owner might also sell the land that the building is on, but keep the building.[2]

Another reason for the relocation of a building is to preserve it for historic interest. An example of such preservation is the Lin An Tai Historical House in Taiwan. Such a move could be made because a building is in danger at its present location.[3]

Notable moves

Whole moves

London's famous monument Marble Arch (1847) was originally the entrance to the newly-rebuilt Buckingham Palace. It was found to be too narrow for the state coach, and was moved to its present location of Hyde Park in 1851.[4]

In order to save a single tree, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Republic of Turkey, moved his summer house, the Yalova Atatürk Mansion, four meters to the east in 1936.[5]

In 1950 the Compania Telefónica de Mexico (Telephone Company of Mexico) building located in the city of Guadalajara was moved 11.8 meters without any interruption of telephone operations. Building weights 1,700 metric tons. Project started on May and ended on November, 1950. The building movement itself took 5 days. Head of the project was Jorge Matute Remus,[6] construction engineer and headmaster of the Universidad De Guadalajara at the time.

The Cudecom Building in Bogotá, Colombia (Weight 7,000 Metric Tons, Distance Moved: 95 Feet); was moved in October 1974 using Steel Rollers. The 8 story building was moved westward to build an avenue. The move of the Cudecom Building was in the Guinness Book of World Records for 30 years. This structure was the heaviest building ever moved successfully until the Fu Gang Building in China was moved in 2004. Moving Cudecom Building Part 1 Moving Cudecom Building Part 2

The Gem Theatre and Century Theatre, both housed within the same building in Detroit, were moved five blocks on wheels to its new location at 333 Madison Avenue on 16 October 1997, because of the development of the Comerica Park area when it became home of the Detroit Tigers. At a distance of it is the furthest known relocation of a sizable building.[7]

As part of the Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center development the Shubert Theatre was moved between 9 February 1999 and 21 February 1999. The 2,638 tonne (2,596 short ton) building was moved three city blocks and is the heaviest recorded building move done on wheels.[8]

The 850 tonne Belle Tout lighthouse was built in 1831 near the edge of the cliff on the next headland west from Beachy Head, East Sussex, England. It was moved more than further inland in 1999 due to cliff erosion. It was pushed by four hydraulic jacks along four steel and concrete beams to a new site that was designed specifically to allow for possible future relocations.[9]

In 1999, the tall, 2540-tonne Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved to protect it from being undermined by beach erosion. When the North Carolina lighthouse was built in 1870, it was over from the sea, but by 1935 the beach had eroded and the waves were only away. Starting in 1930, many efforts to halt the erosion were attempted, including adding over a million cubic yards of loose sand, massive sandbags, and steel and concrete walls. After nearly 70 years it became apparent that fighting the erosion was a never-ending battle, and the decision was made to move the lighthouse away from the sea.

The 3,200-year-old Statue of Ramesses II in Cairo was moved on 25 August 2006 from Ramses Square to a new museum site. The statue was slowly being damaged by pollution and was in an area where it was difficult for people to visit. The move of the statue, which measures high and weighs around 83 tonnes (91 short tons) was broadcast live on Egyptian television. Transported whole on the back of two trucks, the statue had previously been cut into eight pieces when it was moved from its excavation site in the mid-1950s.[10]

In June 2008, Hamilton Grange National Memorial, the 1802 home of Alexander Hamilton in New York City, was relocated from a cramped lot on Convent Avenue to a more spacious setting facing West 141st Street in nearby St. Nicholas Park, where it is currently undergoing a complete restortaion by John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC ( restored. It is actually the second time the 298-ton mansion has been moved. In 1889, it was relocated from its original site on West 143rd Street to a church's property two blocks away.

The Nathaniel Lieb House (1969), by architect Robert Venturi, was moved by barge from Long Beach Island, New Jersey to Glen Cove, New York in 2009.[11]

In April 2013, due to construction works on Fuzuli Street the House of famouse Baku millioner Isa bey Hajinski in Baku (Azerbaijan), which was built in 1908, was moved 10 m to protect it as historical and architectural monument. The weight of this building is 18,000 tonnes. It was the heaviest building in the world ever moved.[12]

Reassembly moves

The Smithsonian Institution – and much of the interior woodwork, and transported it, piece by piece, in his Model T Ford. He reassembled the building about 1.5 miles north of its original site, and converted it into an apartment house.[13]

In 1925, Thomas C. Williams Jr. bought a 15th-century Tudor manor house, Agecroft Hall, which stood by the River Irwell in Pendlebury, England. The hall was disassembled, crated and transported to Richmond, Virginia, where it was reassembled as the centrepiece of a Tudor estate on the banks of the James River.[14] The 16th-century Warwick Priory in Warwick, England was bought by Alexander and Virginia Weddell in 1926, and relocated in the same manner. Architect Henry G. Morse oversaw both moves. He designed additions to the reassembled priory, inspired by Sulgrave Manor and Wormleighton Manor. The expanded building was renamed Virginia House, and stands next door to Agecroft Hall.

Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst purchased and attempted to relocate two Cistercian monasteries during his travels in Spain, but neither was completed during his lifetime. The first was built about 1141, and found abandoned by Hearst in 1925. He purchased the ruin and attempted to ship it to his home in California, San Simeon. The crates, however, were detained by customs officials in New York City, and due to his deteriorating finances during the Great Depression, Hearst was unable to complete the shipment. The stones were purchased in 1951 and reassembled in Florida as a tourist attraction. In 1964, the building was purchased by a local Episcopal diocese and restored to its original purpose as the Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux.[15]

Hearst's second attempt at relocating a monastery was in 1931, when he found the closed Santa Maria de Ovila Monastery, built around 1200. He purchased the structure, disassembled it and successfully shipped it to San Francisco, but was unable to rebuild the monastery. Hearst eventually gave the stones to the city of San Francisco, where they sat for decades in Golden Gate Park. Eventually some of the stones were acquired by the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California, where they are currently being reconstructed;[16] others are now being used as decorative accents in the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Abu Simbel is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples completed in 1244 BCE, on the western bank of the Nile in southern Egypt. Construction of the Aswan High Dam would have submerged the temples beneath the waters of Lake Nasser. In 1959, an international donation campaign began to save the monuments of Nubia: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilisation. The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964, and cost US $80 million. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks, dismantled and reassembled in a new location – 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river, in what many consider one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.

On 18 April 1968, John Rennie's London Bridge (which had replaced the original bridge in 1831) was sold to the American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for the sum of $2,460,000. The bridge was reconstructed at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and opened on 10 October 1971. Not all of the bridge was transported to America, as some was kept behind in lieu of tax duties. The version of London Bridge that was rebuilt at Lake Havasu consists of a concrete frame with stones from the old (but not the original) London Bridge used as cladding. It spans a canal that leads from Lake Havasu to Thomson Bay, and forms the centrepiece of a theme park in English style, complete with mock-Tudor shopping mall. The bridge has become one of Arizona's biggest tourist attractions.[17]

The Old Wellington Inn (1552) and Sinclair's Oyster Bar, two of Manchester, England's oldest buildings, dating from the 16th century and 17th century respectively, had their foundations raised when the Shambles Square marketplace was refurbished in the 1960s.[18] They were in close proximity to the 1996 Manchester bombing. As part of the rebuilding, they were disassembled and moved 100 m North to the new Shambles Square, next to Manchester Cathedral.[19] Originally the two buildings comprised a single row, but they were rebuilt 90 degrees to each other and connected by new construction.

Museum collections

Several museums, particularly open-air museums, move historic buildings into their surroundings, with some dedicated to showing what life was like in previous centuries called living history.

Museums that have transported and reconstructed old buildings and structures include:

Relocation of towers

In the past, it was not uncommon that as well free-standing as guyed radio towers were dismantled and rebuilt at another site. In some cases they were rebuilt just a few metres away from their original site, but in others far away from their original site. In first case these towers were nearly all part of a directional antenna system for long- and medium-wave for which the regulations of directional patterns were changed and the best way to fulfill it, was to build either a new tower or to dismantle one tower and to rebuild it on the new site. It was also done that a tower was dismantled and then used for the upper parts of a new radio tower. This was done for example with the masts at Sender Donebach in 1982 and with the wooden tower of Transmitter Ismaning in 1934. After World War II some radio towers in former East Germany were dismantled by Soviet occupants and rebuilt in former Soviet Union, the most famous example herefore is Goliath transmitter. It is also common that electricity pylons are dismantled and rebuilt at a new site. Also small observation towers built of steel were sometimes dismantled for renovation and afterwards rebuilt.

The tallest structure ever relocated is BREN Tower. In 1959 a 280-metre-tall radio mast was relocated at Felsberg-Berus without dismantling.

Financing building relocation

Although smaller projects are usually paid for in cash, larger projects such as the relocation of a house to a new site are typically financed by banks. Finance is often a major problem faced by project managers as the house needs to be paid for prior to leaving its current site, but the lender for the project cannot take security over the house until it is complete and on the new site. This creates a short-term cashflow problem that unhinges many projects.

See also

On 1900 card.


  1. ^
  2. ^

External links

  • International Association of Structural Movers
  • 'Monster Moves' Television Series made by Windfall Films Follows Buildings On The Move
  • "Moved Buildings for Museums: not an easy solution"
  • "Moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse"
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Relocation Articles and Images - U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service - information on the 880 meter move of Cape Hatteras lighthouse in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
  • "German church rolled to new home" at BBC News, 23 October 2007
  • Includes statistics such as about 100 firms in Chicago. Costs: Small frame house $200/mile; Brick house $1/foot.
  • Ad showing trucks on bottom-right of page.
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