Heritage, Volume 13, Number 3, Summer 1995 Page: 15
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Relocation of Historic Structures: Use Experts, Analysis
By Stan Graves, Texas Historical Commission National Register Department
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When a historic building must be moved as the only
alternative to demolition, several factors should be considered.
The mobility of the American people
and their ready desire to relocate for economic,
social, or religious reasons is an
unquestionable component of our national
character. Our citizenry also has
been moving their buildings, bridges,
homes for a very long time. Buildings are
moved for many reasons: one of the most
common is to avoid loss from the widening
of streets and roads or inundation by
new reservoirs. Strip-mining, relocation
of county seats, and the economic pressures
of new development also have led to
the moving of structures. Finally, relocation
may take place to save a threatened
structure that is historically significant.
Moving a historic structure will unavoidably
destroy some historic fabric and
lessen the historical integrity of the structure
as it relates to its original setting.
When a historic structure is going to be
moved as the only alternative to demolition,
a number of factors should be taken
into consideration prior to the actual move.
Careful analysis should be undertaken
to determine what significant qualities
the building possesses that make it a
worthy candidate for preservation. For
example, a small frame house whose
uniqueness primarily results from interior
decorative painting should be relocated
with great care to ensure the safety
of the painting during the move, but
relatively less attention should be paid
to selecting a similar new site. A historic
lighthouse, on the other hand, may be
primarily significant due to its setting on
a coastal promontory, and relocation to
an inland site would be extremely damaging
to its historical integrity.
In general, however, a new site should
be selected that closely matches the original
and duplicates orientation, landscaping,
vistas, and outbuilding placement.
Non-historical groupings and inappropriate
settings should be avoided. Also, the
new site should not contain historical or
archaeological-significance that would be
adversely affected by the intrusion of the new
structure. For a building listed in the National
Register, specific procedures explaining
the reasons for the move, the effect on the
property's historic integrity, and the compatibility
of the new site must be addressed in
order for the property to retain its listing.
If a building must be moved, the owner
should select an architect with experience
in historical preservation and the relocation
of historic structures. The architect
should coordinate the work of all other
project professionals, who may include historians,
archaeologists, landscape architects,
engineers, craftsmen, and the moving contractor.
The moving contractor should be
selected on the basis of experience in moving
historic structures, equipment capabilities
as they relate to the particular structure,
and ability to provide adequate insurance
coverage. The contractor should work with
the owner and architect to select the best
procedure for the move and to plan the
route and new site requirements. The contractor
will be responsible for all permits,
fees, utility company coordination, compliance
with local and state safety regulations,
and insurance requirements.
The most desirable procedure for moving
a historic building is to move it intact.
This procedure generally will result in the
least destruction of historic fabric and the
maximum retention of historic integrity.
Some structures will require partial disassembly
due to their size or site restrictions.
The most destructive method involves total
disassembly. This method results in a
great loss of original fabric, such as the
chinking in a log structure or the mortar of
a stone building. The only advantage of
total disassembly is the opportunity to study
and record the original building methods
and sequence of construction.
Regardless of the method chosen for the
actual move, before any other preparation,
the building should be thoroughly documented
and recorded. Any disassembly, the
move itself, and the subsequent restoration
should also be documented and recorded.
Initial documentation should include historical,
architectural, and archaeological
research of the building and its historical
Photography is probably the easiest
and most useful architectural recording
method. Before commencement of any
physical work, a thorough photographic
survey of the entire structure, inside and
out, should be made. Photographs should
also accompany the textual records of
the field work, the move, and the restoration
notes. Special care should be taken
to record any unique decorative or structural
characteristics of the building.
The need to move a historic structure
can provide the opportunity for a thorough
investigation of its physical condition.
At this point, all necessary protective
measures should be taken to ensure
that the building is safe from vandalism or
weather damage. The extent of any material
deterioration or the presence of active
insect infestation can also be determined
at this time, with a view toward planning
the immediate post-move restoration and
the long-term maintenance plans.
Before the move, but once the new
site has been chosen, decisions must be
made about an appropriate new foundation
for the historic building. The supervising
architect should determine what
type of foundation would best suit the
particular structure as well as respect the
historical foundation appearance. Sometimes
a full dry cellar serves the cause of
long-term building conservation best.
Depending on the type of structure, the
climate, and the site itself, other foundation
forms may be suitable, but in any
case they should be made moisture resistant.
Whatever the cause or reason for
the move, maintaining complete records
throughout all phases will help ensure
the historical integrity of the building.
Article reprinted with permission from
the Texas Historical Commission.
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1995 15
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 13, Number 3, Summer 1995, periodical, Summer 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45409/m1/15/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.