Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Moving houses

In the 1800s it was common for buildings in the United States to be physically moved and placed somewhere else, either for aesthetic reasons, or to create a vacant lot where a larger building could be constructed. Perhaps the most remarkable example was the moving of the Hotel Pelham in Boston in 1869.

This seven storey building had to be moved to allow a road-widening scheme to take place. The New York Times described the method:

"The entire basement has been laid bare, the foundations slightly raised, and large numbers of small iron rollers inserted under them, and these rollers will move upon a stout foundation wall with straps of iron bound to its top."


The force used to move the building itself was by human-operated iron screws (72 of them) pushing the building one inch every five minutes. The whole process took three months to complete. During this process, the hotel and residents continued their business as normal, and utilities such as water and gas were connected to the moving hotel by flexible tubes.

In the end, however, the road-widening scheme itself was to bring about the end of the hotel. Since street cars were more frequent, people preferred to commute into the city from the more affordable suburbs. Also, the nearby Boston Public Library was moved to another part of the city and businesses stopped setting up in the area. Finally, in 1916, the building was demolished and replaced by offices.

References:

"The Moving of a Freestone Hotel in Boston", New York Times, August 23rd 1869

Peter Paravalos, "Moving a House With Preservation in Mind", Rowman Altamira, 2006
Sample chapter here: http://chapters.altamirapress.com/07/591/0759109567ch2.pdf

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