Thursday, January 29, 2009

Moving house - the hard way!

An historic house on Manitou Island in White Bear Lake, part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area in Minnesota, has been saved from demolition by moving it to a new location.

Only problem was, the island was separated from the mainland by about a hundred yards of open water - so they had to wait for the lake to freeze.

According to a news report:

It had the makings of everything Minnesotan: A cruel wind chill well below zero, a North Country fashion show of gawking onlookers and a 60-ton house reeled like a fish across White Bear Lake on ice that was 2 feet thick.

"It will be a win-win for everybody if we make it to the other side," said Doug Kraemer, who bought the 1880s-era house and paid about $40,000 to move it Wednesday from the lake's Manitou Island to yonder shore about 100 yards away. He wasn't the only one crossing his fingers. Many of the onlookers expected to see a frigid splash of historic proportions.

After workers placed dollies with 64 tires under the gray wood-frame house, used as a gatekeeper's residence on the island, a huge tow truck eased forward, stretching a steel cable until it was taut. The ice ahead shimmered like a groomed hockey rink. The truck tugged, the house crept, and the move was on.

"How many times do you get to see a house on the ice?" marveled Monty Fagnan of Lino Lakes. Fagnan's buddy Randy Larson of White Bear Lake joked that it was the biggest ice house he ever saw. He and Fagnan fantasized about using it for fishing.

Kraemer and the mover, Terry Semple of Semple Building Movers of St. Paul, didn't take the weather for granted. Last weekend, they pumped water onto the ice to make it thicker. Kraemer calculated that the lake level was 2 feet below normal, and said tests showed that the ice sat on about a foot of water and muck. And Denice Semple, Terry's wife, said the company hired an engineer who advised how to distribute the weight enough to keep the house from crashing through.

Must have been quite a challenge! There's a very interesting video clip of the removal operation at the link - recommended viewing.

I'm pleased they saved the old house. One of the things I most dislike about America is the way old buildings are torn down without a care for their past, or the heritage they represent. This one wasn't anything special in the way that a European manor house might have been, but it's an important part of the history of a country that's not very old to begin with. Such things are worth preserving for future generations.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is far from pleasant. that house was unnecessarily moved and would have been much better historically represented on the island where it was built. it does not belong on 6th street, nor the ice that once surrounded it. it belonged on manitou island and it is a shame to see it gone. and just so you know, that house did not need to be torn down.