When floodwaters inundated the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML) on the banks of the Cedar River in June of 2008, the image of the building’s red roof like an island in the water became an icon.
And later this year, museum officials hope their plan to physically move the building across the street and incorporate it into a new exhibition center will not only preserve the museum building, but also serve as another moving image of recovery
“This is an iconic building for Cedar Rapids and Iowa, and the national and international constituencies that are part of this museum, said Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the NCSML. “It will be a historic moment, a visual sign of recovery that we will survive this and be stronger and better in the end. This is a very historic building. It’s only 15 years old but a lot of historic things have happened here.”
Naughton says moving the structure made sense financially as well. “Moving the building is the most exciting option. We can return it to its original purpose as well as save it for future generations and from flood.”
Of course, the move will be no easy feat. The building weighs in at 1,500 tons and covers 16,700 square feet. It is wood construction with a brick veneer on slab, making it a complex move according to structure moving expert Jeremy Patterson, owner of Jeremy Patterson House Moving, Inc. in Washington, Iowa. And it will possibly be one of the largest moves ever completed in the state. He says it will likely take 30 to 45 days to complete the process – a process that involves plenty of engineering.
According to Patterson, they will use a combination of pre-bowed steel beams and hydraulic lifts, like their 24 jack unified jacking machine “You are basically fooling the building to think it never left its foundation,” he said. “Once you have it loaded you’ve already done the hard part. Moving it down the road is the fun part.”
Patterson moves some 350 structures per year, and takes pride in his company’s work in historic preservation. “This is the largest recycling industry in the world,” he said.
How it’s done
To move a super structure like the Czech Museum, holes are cut in the foundation to place steel beams under it to create a grid of support, according to Jeremy Patterson of Jeremy Patterson House Moving, Inc.
The building’s construction plays a big role in how that grid is created, Patterson said. “For a wood frame house you’d use two main beams, and with brick structures you need a cross beam every four feet to hold the structure together. You literally have 20 times more support under a brick structure.”
After the beams are in place, hydraulic jacks are used to lift the building. Each jack can hold 15 tons and by using a unified jack system, Patterson’s crew is able to utilize one big cylinder control to maintain stabilization.
When they are ready to make the move, the structure is either pulled by a truck or moved by hydraulic lifts that have their own motors. Once the destination is reached, the structure is simply lowered on to its new foundation.
By Katie Mills Giorgio, for Gazette Special Sections