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An Incredible Move: The Indiana Bell Telephone Building

The relocation of the headquarters building of Indiana Bell Telephone Company in Indianapolis remains one of the most fascinating moves in the history of structure relocation.

The headquarters of Indiana Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T serving the US state of Indiana, was housed inside an 8-story, 11,000-ton building built in 1907. In 1929, the phone company decided they needed a larger building, but they couldn’t just demolish the old building because it was providing an essential service to the city. The building was also inconveniently located on the site where they wanted the larger structure. In the end it was decided that the old building will be moved to the back of the plot to make room for the new building.

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

The Indiana Bell headquarters in the middle of the move. Photo credit: William H. Bass Photo Company

The massive undertaking began on October 1930. Over the next four weeks, the massive steel and brick building was shifted inch by inch 16 meters south, rotated 90 degrees, and then shifted again by 30 meters west. The work was done with such precision that the building continued to operate during the entire duration of the move. All utility cables and pipes serving the building, including thousand of telephone cables, electric cables, gas pipes, sewer and water pipes had to be lengthened and made flexible to provide continuous service during the move. A movable wooden sidewalk allowed employees and the public to enter and leave the building at any time while the move was in progress. The company did not lose a single day of work nor interrupt their service during the entire period.

Incredibly most of the power needed to move the building was provided by hand-operated jacks while a steam engine also some support. Each time the jacks were pumped, the house moved 3/8th of an inch.

The building stood for 33 years at its new location, until it was demolished in order to make room for the expansion of the new headquarters building.

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

Indiana Bell Telephone Building

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