The Building That Moved Without Suspending Its Operations

In November 1930, one of the greatest feats of modern engineering was executed — a team of architects and engineers moved an 11,000-ton telephone exchange building without ever suspending its operations or utilities for the 600 employees who worked inside. In 1929, the Indiana Bell Telephone Company acquired the Central Union, including the offices. Because Indiana Bell had a large staff of employees, the initial plan was to demolish the building to construct a bigger headquarters in the same area. Demolition would, of course, require an immediate cut in the utilities and would disrupt the business for a period of time. Instead, it was proposed that the building be relocated, which would maintain the continuity of call services and no disruption of gas, water or electricity for the building. The plan was approved, and for 34 days the 11,000-ton building was moved 52 feet from its original location and rotated 90 degrees. How did they do it? The 7-story building was first lifted using hydraulic jacks. Then, the movement was carried out with hydraulic rollers on a concrete surface on 75-ton spruce beams. While the building rested on one roller, workers positioned the next, and so on. This way, the building was moved at a speed of 15 inches per hour. Building employees indicated that they didn’t even notice the displacement of the structure. Once the building was put in place, business continued in that location until the late 1950s, when the building was finally demolished.