The Building That Moved: How Did They Move an 11,000-Ton Telephone Exchange Without Suspending Its Operations?

The Building That Moved: How Did They Move an 11,000-Ton Telephone Exchange Without Suspending Its Operations?

In November 1930, in Indiana, United States, one of the great feats of modern engineering was executed: a team of architects and engineers moved an 11,000-ton (22-million pound) telephone exchange without ever suspending its operations either basic supplies for the 600 employees who worked inside.

In order to comprehend this milestone, we have to go back to 1888, when the architecture firm Vonnegut, Bohn & Mueller (later known as Vonnegut & Bohn) was founded in Indianapolis by German-American architects Bernard Vonnegut and Arthur Bohn.

In 1907, Vonnegut, Bohn & Mueller designed the Indiana Bell Building in Evansville, a 7-story building for the Central Union Telephone Company; an Art-Deco building later included in 1982 in the National Register of Historic Places of the United States for being part of the historical identity of Indianapolis as part of the German-American architectural legacy of the city.

In 1929 the Indiana Bell Telephone Company acquired the Central Union, including the offices designed 20 years earlier by German-born architects. As Indiana Bell had a large staff of employees, the initial plan was to demolish the building to build, in the same area, headquarters of much greater capacity. For this project, they commissioned Vonnegut, Bohn, & Mueller.

The design did not comprise offices only but also featured the design of a call center which, at that time, was operated manually by the company's own staff. The demolition of the original building would imply an immediate cut in the supply of services.

The Building That Moved: How Did They Move an 11,000-Ton Telephone Exchange Without Suspending Its Operations? - Image 3 of 4
via Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Kurt Vonnegut, Bernard's son, was already working with his father at the firm when the phone company came up with the project that included the demolition of the previous building. Kurt proposed an innovative alternative: relocate the work, maintain the continuity of call services, and thus not discard a fully functional infrastructure.

Kurt's proposal was approved by the company, and for 34 days the 11,000-ton building was moved 16 meters from its original location and rotated 90 degrees, a process that was completed in mid-November 1930, without interrupting or the service of calls nor the supply of gas, water, and electricity of the building.

The move was planned by engineers Bevington, Taggert & Fowler, while contractors John Eichlea Co. carried out the difficult feat for the time.

How did they do it? The 7-story, 11,000-ton building was first lifted using hydraulic jacks. Then, the movement was carried out with hydraulic rollers on a concrete surface on 75-ton spruce beams, specifically located for this purpose. While the building rested on one roller, the workers positioned the next, and so on. In this way, the building was moved at a speed of 40 centimeters per hour. Even the entrance hall to the building was connected by a mobile entrance walkway that allowed rotational movement and kept it with access available at all times.

The Building That Moved: How Did They Move an 11,000-Ton Telephone Exchange Without Suspending Its Operations? - Image 2 of 4
via Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Testimonials from some of the 600 building employees indicated that they did not even notice the displacement of the structure according to records from Telephone Collectors International (TCI)

Despite the titanic effort, the building, located at the intersection of Meridian and New York St, served only until the late 1950s, and was demolished in 1963 to be replaced by new office facilities to provide for the growing number of company operators. Today, the site houses the offices of AT&T; a 22-story complex that maintains part of the original Art-Deco style of the defunct 7-story building that once housed the employees of the defunct Indiana Bell company.

The Indiana Bell Building was one of the first buildings in the world to be displaced rather than demolished. Other examples are the Shubert Theater in Minneapolis, the Belle Tout Lighthouse in Sussex England, and the Empire Theater in New York.

The continuous advancement of construction and design techniques often make necessary the renovation of old obsolete facilities in their capacities, the movement of buildings allows giving a second life to structures, which otherwise should be demolished to make room for more constructions. modern and efficient.

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Cite: Ignacio Rodríguez. "The Building That Moved: How Did They Move an 11,000-Ton Telephone Exchange Without Suspending Its Operations?" [El edificio que se movió: ¿cómo desplazaron una central telefónica de 11.000 toneladas sin suspender sus operaciones?] 19 Jan 2022. ArchDaily. (Trans. Valencia, Nicolás) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/973183/the-building-that-moved-how-did-they-move-an-11000-ton-telephone-exchange-without-suspending-its-operations> ISSN 0719-8884

via <a href='https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/dc012/id/14821/rec/11'>Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society</a>

如何在不影响运营的前提下,搬运整栋11000吨重的电话局大楼?

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