Famous Buildings That Have Been Moved

Ever had to move a house? How about a huge, historic theater? A lighthouse from its delicate perch on a 300-foot cliff?

Moving any building is a challenge, but some of the moves on this list were downright nerve-wracking. Some of these entries were famous on their own…and some are now famous because of their moving days. But all have interesting stories:


1. Shubert Theater, Minneapolis, MN

The heaviest building ever moved on rubber tires, the Shubert theater made its move from the decaying Hennepin Avenue in 1999. But the building had an interesting history even before that.

Built for $250,000, the theater opened in 1910. Over the next several decades, it served as home to acting ensemble the Bainbridge Players, a movie theater, and (beginning in 1941) a burlesque house.

The building’s almost as famous for its move as for its colorful history. Even though it only shifted a quarter mile, the move took 12 days, five bulldozers, 100 hydraulic jacks, and 70 dollies forming a temporary moving foundation.

Photo: Elkman/Wikimedia Commons

2. Fu Gang Building, Guangxi Province, China

This one made both our list…and the Guinness Book of World Records. Why? It’s the heaviest building ever moved intact.

Tipping the scale at 15,140.4 metric tons, the Fu Gang Building moved just 38 meters over, as part of a neighborhood “facelift” project. Because the building was unique in the area (it was designed by a British architect), the city didn’t want to demolish it.

Just because the move was short didn’t mean it was easy. Engineers brought in 12 lifting jacks, each with a 200-ton capacity, for the east side of the building and another 16 jacks on the southern side. Moving at the agonizing pace of about 30 centimeters an hour, they took 11 days to finish the relocation.


 3. St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church, Spain and Miami Beach, FL

Okay, so moving a building a block or two is challenging but doable, right?

Well, how about moving it overseas…without the benefit of modern construction technology to help out?

We know…this one is a little different, since it was actually dismantled and rebuilt, but its story is what earned it a spot on our list.

Built (for the first time) between 1133 and 1141 AD in Sacramenia, Spain, the church started life as a monastery. A social revolution in the 1830s saw the Cloisters seized and converted into a granary and stable.

William Randolph Hearst bought the Cloisters and outbuildings in 1925, and had everything taken apart stone by stone, packed in more than 11,000 hay-lined wooden crates, and shipped to the U.S. Unfortunately, Hearst’s financial problems started around that time, and the crates sat in a Brooklyn warehouse for 26 years.

Finally, two entrepreneurs bought the structure after Hearst’s death. Over the course of 19 months (and the equivalent of $20 million in today’s dollars), they got the Monastery put back together. It now serves as an Episcopal church.

Photo: Rolf Müller/Wikimedia Commons


4. Belle Tout Lighthouse, Beachy Head, East Sussex, U.K.

Built in the early 1800s, the Belle Tout Lighthouse used 2 gallons of oil every hour to keep its many oil lamps lit. Originally located so that the cliff would cut off the light visible from sea, alerting ships that they were too close, the lighthouse quickly lost functionality thanks to the quickly-eroding cliff face.

By 1999, the structure was only about 4 meters from the edge — an alarming distance for the family now living there. To keep it from falling into the sea, engineers set up four lubricated beams. Using hydraulic jacks, they pushed the 850-ton lighthouse 56 feet farther inland, away from the crumbling cliff.

Photo: robef/Wikimedia Commons


5. Empire Theater, New York City

We end our list the way we began it — with a theater. This one’s the historic Empire Theater on 42nd Street in New York City.

Shifted as part of a renewal project during the seedy era of Times Square, the Empire weighed in at 3,700 tons. It was lifted from its foundation and relocated 168 feet west along 42nd to become the entrance for a new retail complex.

These are just a few of our favorite famous building moves. Got another cool moving story to share? Let us hear it in the comments!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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