Moving a 762 ton Chicago house

To make room for the development of the McCormick Place entertainment district, a heavy landmark home from South Prairie Avenue has to be moved:

The house, built in 1888 by Rees, widow of real estate pioneer and land surveyor James H. Rees, is the last structure standing on the 2100 block of South Prairie. The house was granted landmark status in 2012 by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

Moving the 762-ton house will be a monumental job, involving 29 remote-controlled hydraulic dollies with a total of 232 wheels. The total weight, including equipment, is 1,050 tons…

The authority is spending more than $6 million to move the home and the adjacent coach house. The new plot of land cost an additional $1.9 million. The home won’t change owners, but the authority will also compensate the private owners with $450,000…

Last month, workers did a practice run, moving the much smaller coach house to its new location. It weighed a mere 185 tons.

Though the relocation will be among one of the heaviest in U.S. history, it won’t set any records. Guinness World Records lists the Fu Gang Building in China’s Guangxi province as the heaviest building moved intact. The 16,689-ton building was moved in 2004.

Two notable things here:

1. This is quite a project. Read the story for more of the details including what they laid on top of the road in preparation for the move as well as how they secured the home on its pad so it doesn’t fall off during the move.

2. South Prairie Avenue used to be the home for wealthy Chicagoans. Here is more from the Wikipedia entry on Prairie Avenue:

During the last three decades of the 19th century, a six-block section of the street served as the residence of many of Chicago’s elite families and an additional four-block section was also known for grand homes. The upper six-block section includes part of the historic Prairie Avenue District, which was declared a Chicago Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places…

By 1877 the eleven-block area of Prairie Avenue as well as Calumet Avenue housed elite residences. By 1886 the finest mansions in the city, each equipped with its own carriage house, stood on Prairie Avenue. In the 1880s and 1890s, mansions for George Pullman, Marshall Field, John J. Glessner and Philip Armour anchored a neighborhood of over fifty mansions known as “Millionaire’s Row”. Many of the leading architects of the day, such as Richard Morris Hunt, Henry Hobson Richardson and Daniel Burnham designed mansions on the street. At the time of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, guidebooks described the street as “the most expensive street west of Fifth Avenue”. However, after Bertha Palmer, society wife of Potter Palmer, built the Palmer Mansion that anchored the Gold Coast along Lake Shore Drive, the elite residents began to move north.

While the wealthiest area was several blocks north, this home is part of an area once very important to Chicago’s elite. Yet, like many areas in major cities, redevelopment is common as people and businesses move and new residents and leaders bring in new ideas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s