Oregon Demolition News: Moving Morris Marks House

OregonDemolitionMorrisMarksHouseHow long does it take you to decide to move? How about six years? That’s how long it’s taken to arrange the move of a certain notable home in downtown Portland, Oregon. Demolition companies like ours can’t help but notice how certain buildings survive changing eras. Through examination of the Morris Marks house transport, we will help you understand how and why houses are moved, as well as how this process helps preserve historic buildings.

Morris Marks house was built in 1880 for Portland shoe merchant Morris Marks. Portland has grown exponentially around this charming Italianate home, a two story wood structure now surrounded by high rises. Its location on SW 12th Ave near Main has put the Morris Marks house in danger of demolition over the years, as developers seek to re-purpose the land it sits on. That land was sold in 2011. As the Portland Chronicle reports, on July 22nd of this year the City of Portland received an application to move the Morris Marks house to a vacant property at SW Broadway and Grant, near 6th Avenue and the I-405 interchange. That grassy patch of land, known as the Broadway Triangle, is owned by Portland Parks and Recreation, which has expressed interest in using the Morris Marks house for office space after the move. As Maura White, executive director of the Portland Parks Foundation explained to the Oregonian, “There’s something magical about a historic building where you can bring the past and present together in a warm, inviting setting.”

The Morris Marks house has received a great deal of attention due to its architectural features. Portland’s 1984 historic resource inventory comments on the home’s “two-story polygonal bay windows,” and “wide overhanging roof cornice with alternating large and small curvilinear brackets,” among other notable features. Portland preservationists estimate that the home contains 100 tons of old-growth Douglas fir. Its wainscoting, ornamental archways, and lavish woodwork speak to the thousands of hours of expert Victorian-era craftsmanship involved in its construction. Clearly this beautiful home from Portland’s early days is worth saving. So how will movers keep this architectural treasure safe during its move?

How Houses are Moved

Moving houses is not easy. In Structure Relocation, as it is known in the industry, two approaches are possible: a) disassemble the home piece by piece, and rebuilt it in its new location, a time consuming and labor intense process; or b) hire an experienced professional to move the home intact, generally across short distances. For short moves, temporary rails or hydraulic dollies may be used. Flat bed trucks support homes across longer distances. Underlying steel frames support the home when moved via truck; screw jacks may be used for shorter moves. In both cases, wood beams known as cribs are used to support the structure as it is lifted inch by inch.

The cost to move a home averages $12 to $16 per square foot; that price varies by distance moved and site challenges. For example, situating a home in its new spot could require cutting down trees. During the move, it’s possible that electrical lines and traffic lights could require removal to allow safe passage of the home. Finally, after the move, utilities must be hooked up, plumbing must be arranged, and everything must sit on a strong foundation.

Moving the Morris Marks house is expected to take a day or two.

Why move houses?

  • Redevelopment pushes historic buildings off land.
  • The land is sold from underneath the building. To incentivize moving a building, a developer may sell it for a rock-bottom price, such as $1, with the stipulation that the buyer is responsible for moving the building by a set date.
  • The buyer wishes to relocate the building for a better view or otherwise improved location.
  • For historic preservation. Relocation can save historic structures that would otherwise be demolished.

Over the years, we have followed Portland’s struggle to balance new development with historic preservation. We’ve suggested how each demolition company in Oregon can help preserve historic structures. And we’ve followed individual historic buildings, such as the 1892 Northwest Portland home that was nearly razed and replaced with a contemporary structure inspired by the videogame Zelda.

In our work as local demolition contractors, we also keep you up to date on Portland’s zoning regulations and demolition design processes. As long as Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary continues restricting growth at the city’s fringes, you can bet that developers will seek vacant lots and decrepit buildings to replace. And you can bet that this Oregon demolition contractor will continue to seek ways to balance demolition needs with historic preservation, through selective deconstruction, green deconstruction, interior gutting/remodeling, and more. To learn more about how we can partner with you on preserving historic structures, get in touch.


[Photo via VintagePortland.WordPress.com. Read more about the Morris Marks House on their blog.]

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