Moving Historic Buildings: One Means of Preservation

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One means by which to preserve a historic building is to relocate it to a new site. There are costs and risks (both financial and material) inherent in such an undertaking. It is likely to be an expensive project. There is a chance that the fabric of the building will be damaged, and the context in which the structure existed historically will change. Careful planning will be necessary in order facilitate transport, and appropriate preparations will be required at both the old and new locations. Clearly, the decision to move a building is one which should not be made haphazardly. Despite the fact that preservationists generally eschew the practice, however, moving a building may in fact be an effective way to preserve a threatened structure. Relocation may enhance or even spare a valuable historic resource, thus extending its utilitarian, economic, aesthetic and historic benefits.
The practice of moving buildings is not new. Numerous examples are presented, thus illustrating what types of structures have been relocated, and chronicling changes in the technology associated with structural moving. Early examples point to primarily practical and financial motives for moving. The growth of the historic preservation movement increased public awareness of the aesthetic and cultural values associated with those aging, dwindling assets. Perspectives on the relocation of historic buildings were influenced by the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act. The resulting guidelines for inclusion of moved buildings in the National Register of Historic Places and limited federal requirements for protection of historic resources are summarized for the reader. To assist readers who are contemplating the relocation of a building, the various components of such a project are introduced. Before deciding to move a building, it is advisable to assess its present condition and historic significance, to investigate potential sites, to gain an understanding of the moving process itself, and to estimate the associated costs. Careful planning is essential for successful execution of the project. Numerous professionals can contribute expertise in the process, including architects and engineers, contractors, professional building movers, financial officers, and government officials.
One venue in which moved buildings are often displayed is the outdoor museum. Such facilities offer educational and recreational opportunities, allowing visitors to experience aspects of life in some previous time. Background information is provided for three prominent examples: Greenfield Village in Michigan, the Farmers' Museum in New York, and Hopewell Furnace in Pennsylvania. Consideration is given to the use of preserved (and perhaps moved) buildings, and to the National Register status of each museum.

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moving; preservation; historic


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