Historic house moving slowly — very slowly — up Prairie Avenue

SHARE Historic house moving slowly — very slowly — up Prairie Avenue
SHARE Historic house moving slowly — very slowly — up Prairie Avenue

A big house went for a stroll by the lake Tuesday morning.

The three-story historic home at 2110 S. Prairie Ave. began imperceptibly creeping at 1 mph or so to its new address, 600 feet away. The journey is expected to take three days.

The home weighs more than 1.5 million pounds and is in the top 1percent of heaviest houses ever to be moved in the United States, said Peter Kuhn, project manager for Bulley & Andrews of Chicago, the firm charged with overseeing the move one block north — and across the street — to its new home at 2017 Prairie.

It is being relocated to make way for redevelopment near McCormick Place.

Where the house was, an event center — the eventual home to the DePaul University basketball team — is planned. An entertainment district will also spring up, as well as a 1,200-room hotel.

The home was built in 1888 by Harriet Rees, who was in her 70s and widowed from her husband, real estate developer James Rees.

Rees and her 19th-century neighbors — some of the city’s wealthiest — might not have approved of the home’s most recent tenants: a group of about six young guys who liked to party.

“It was like a frat house in there,” said local historian William Tyre, who also serves as executive director of the nearby Glessner House Museum. Tyre said a number of beer cans were collected and disposed of before the home was briefly opened up for tours in June.

The house has been vacant for several months, but will be occupied again after the move, Tyre said.

In all, the structure with its protective framework weighs 1,045 tons — more than 2 million pounds — and measures 95 feet long, 72 feet high and 25 feet wide — about three times the size of its coach house, which was moved last month.

The owner, a Chicagoan who lives on the West Side, bought the home about 13 years ago and did a lot of preservation work before renting it out, Tyre said.

“Because it is a landmark building . . . the decision was made to move it to another site to be able to preserve it,” Tyre said. The tab is being picked up by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the group that runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier, Tyre said.

“It cost about $6 million to move the house,” Tyre said. “It was $1.9 million to acquire the new land and then the owners were given $450,000 to compensate them for their trouble, so about $8.35 million total.”

The dwelling, which houses one of the city’s first residential elevators (it still works), is one of the few surviving 19th century homes on Prairie Avenue and a gem to anyone interested in learning about the city’s past.

“A lot of people come down here to learn about Chicago’s history,” Tyre said. “So having a house like this still standing is really important to give them a sense of what it was like when this was all residential down here.”

Several dozen onlookers gathered to watch the the heavy home’s turtle-like trek Tuesday morning.

Heinz Schwinge, 72, of Evanston, asked what the heaviest object he ever physically moved was, quipped: “My wife . . . over the threshold.”

Bulley & Andrews of Chicago is supervising the two-day move of the Rees House along Prairie Avenue. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Bulley & Andrews of Chicago is supervising the two-day move of the Rees House along Prairie Avenue. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

The Rees House is being moved on 32 mechanized dollies. Including the protective steel skeloton, the whole assembly being moved weighs about 1,045 tons. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

The Rees House is being moved on 32 mechanized dollies. Including the protective steel skeloton, the whole assembly being moved weighs about 1,045 tons. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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