We Can Move It For You Wholesale

[Images: Moving Fort Moore High School in Los Angeles, 1886; photos courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust/C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries].

In 1886, Los Angeles moved the Fort Moore High School. “A contractor who claimed he could accomplish the task hoisted the building onto scaffolding and, using rollers, horses, and human labor, slowly moved the schoolhouse toward its new location,” KCET explains. “After work was underway, the contractor decided that the task was impossible after all. The building remained where his crew left it”—unfortunately, not marooned on the stilts seen here, like some steampunk Walking City, but on its new ground-level site blocks away. Once lowered back to earth, it was “repurposed as a schoolhouse for younger students while a new, grander high school was built atop Fort Moore Hill.”

It’s as if, in a dreamtime state before any of us can remember, buildings once moved around Los Angeles, nomadic titans settling down only with the end of prehistory. Perhaps they will wake up and walk again, criss-crossing valleys, crawling over hills, rearranging roadways around themselves.

Eventually, most of Fort Moore Hill itself was physically removed from the city. “In 1949, construction crews transported away most of the hill by the truckload,” we read, turning it into one of the “lost hills of downtown Los Angeles.” If only the hill had disappeared, however, leaving all the buildings built upon it stranded on wooden scaffolds in the sunlight, a tablecloth trick in architectural form.

7 thoughts on “We Can Move It For You Wholesale”

  1. It seems that moving houses and other structures was much more common in that era. I remember touring through Bridgton Maine, and it seems that every building we stopped at was moved from some other location.

  2. Love the title.

    Your post reminds me of a photo set I saw a few years ago of house-moving trucks operating in San Francisco. Whole Victorians, uprooted and moved to their new places of rest on the back of a flatbed truck. One wonders how they avoided all the hills. Another lost art.

  3. In Queensland, Australia, where I grew up moving buildings is still common. My primary school had been moved about one hundred kilometers from the mining town that it had been built in after that mine had closed. The timber "Queenlander" style houses are often shifted rather than demolished when their land is re-developed. I'm not sure if it is still there but until recently on the north side of Brisbane there was a "used house" lot for storing moved buildings!

  4. I lived for a year in the city of Most in the Czech Republic. The old city was razed for mining; however, they decided to move the church in order to save it. It was the heaviest building ever moved.

    I'm trying to find some information on the move but there isn't much in English. It's the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. There is a great film in the church itself about the move. It was a massive engineering accomplishment to brace the building and make the move itself.

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