ESLARP East St. Louis Action Research Project
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ARCH 372/374 Summer 1995
relocation of historic structures
The process steps that should be followed when considering relocating a structure include:

  1. community and federal involvement
  2. selection of a moving contractor
  3. specifications and licenses
  4. selection of the best procedure for the move
  5. planning the route
  6. documentation
  7. interim protection prior to the move
  8. selection and preparation of the new site
  9. preparation of the structure for the move

House moving has been done successfully since the late eighteenth century, when houses were moved not for their historical significance but as an option to new construction. Today moving houses is still a viable means of providing homes for a community while at the same time preventing usable materials from adding the landfill.

Important factors that will affect the moving of a structure include:

community and federal involvement

Prior to beginning a building move and even before acquisition, be certain the structure is free from legal encumbrances.

Written authorization should be obtained from the local historical commission.

Properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places must be moved in accordance with the following regulations - Part 60, Chapter 1, Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations - if the property is to remain listed.

Property owners should also check the most current Tax Reform Act for eligibility of tax credits of historic properties and how relocating their structure may affect this.

selection of a moving contractor

If possible, a firm with experience in moving historic structures should be employed. If none is available, try to locate a firm which shows an interest in historic materials and has knowledge of the appropriate techniques. It is advisable for the owners to work closely with the movers, no matter what their level of expertise.

Some of the equipment required to move a structure include the following:

Adequate insurance is especially important and must be provided for all phases of the operation. It is the responsibility of the contractor to provide the building owner with certificates of proof that he is covered against both public liability and workmens compensation.

The contractor should also maintain property damage protection in addition to workmen's compensation as specified by the state or states within which the firm is operating. If the contractor does not carry it, the property owner may be held responsible for injuries to the contractors employees.

It is also advisable for the nongovernmental owner to carry comparable coverage, to back up that held by the contractor, against the possibility of a joint suit resulting from a serious accident.

Unless the building is owned by a Federal or State Agency, the owner should also have replacement value insurance on the structure.

specifications and licenses

Owner's responsibilities include:

Contractor's responsibilities include:

selection of the best procedure for the move

There are essentially three conditions a structure can be in to move:

Decision of which to select should be based on the following factors:

intact structures: This is the most desirable method. Avoid the labor costs of dismantling and reassembling and the chance of losing pieces. Also the original fabric is preserved.

partially disassembled structures: This method takes advantage of aspects of both intact moving and total disassembly. Two major advantages are time and labor costs are reduced and the potential loss of fabric is minimized.

Note that a crane will be needed to move a structure which has been separated into sections. Preparations for this sort of move must be planned will in advance.

Masonry buildings are frequently partially disassembled for a move so that the main block of the structure can be transported as one unit, while the roof and the other frame sections are detached and disassembled. Removing the roof may also reduce the cost of relocating by reducing the overall height of the structure. This method is by far less expensive than having the utility lines lowered.

totally disassembled structures: Aside from the actual physical loss of original fabric, which cannot be avoided during the complete dismantling of a structure, there is the very unfortunate loss of the originality that is part of an undisturbed building.

If there is a positive factor in this method, it is that the technology and growth pattern of the building may be studied and recorded in detail. However, this method should still be looked upon as the last resort.

planning the route

This must be decided well in advance. Moving a structure usually requires wide roads and a travel route planned that can also accommodate maneuvering tractors along with the structure.

Overhead space must also be considered and arrangements with utility companies to raise or temporarily remove overhead wires. This requires planning with utility companies and usually an hourly fee for their services.

Moving and road use permits can be obtained through either state or local highway departments.

Proposed route should be cleared with appropriate state and local police departments whose services for escort and traffic control duty will be needed.

Tree limbs may have to be removed along the route; involving permits from the municipality and services of the local tree warden or arborist. If trees are privately owned, permission for cutting will be necessary which may even entail cost.

For partial or total disassembly, storage facilities to secure against the weather and vandalism should be provided at the site.


It is important that thorough documentation and recording of the move and/or restoration of the property be carried out in every phase of the work, particularly if a structure is to be dismantled.

There are essentially four aspects of this research:

  1. historical background and research
  2. field notes and physical investigation (archeological & architectural)
  3. recording the disassembly and the move
  4. restoration notes and maintenance records

The detail needed of this section depends on if the structure is historic and on the National Register of Historic Preservation and whether or not its features are intended to be preserved or totally remodeled or renovated with new materials.

interim protection prior to the move

selection and preparation of the new site

The following should be done well in advance of the move:

In situating a single structure, the adjacent structures and the site need to be considered. Shape, mass and scale are critical.

Use the field notes and dimensions from the survey of the original site to help locate a suitable new site.

Generally, a full dry basement or cellar under any structure is the best for long-term conservation.

Investigate the current building techniques for preparing a moisture resistant foundation. These methods were most likely not used on the original structure and therefore incorporation of the original facing material on foundation wall should be considered.

preparation of the structure for the move

Investigation of methods of preparation are very involved and should be well understood by both the contractor and owner. These vary depending on method of moving. The moving contractor should be prepared to discuss this thoroughly with the owner and to document how this will be done.

*See reference: Moving Historic Structures by John Obed Curtis.

ARCH 372/374 Summer 1995

East St. Louis Action Research Project
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