Historic Lake View building moving west – literally – so the Red Line lanes can be straightened


Move over, Vautravers Building.

The 127-year-old Lake View structure began its very short trip on Monday to depart from a Chicago Transit Authority track reconstruction project.

The movement of 30 feet west and four feet south – as part of CTA’s red and purple modernization – is expected to end on Tuesday.

The move is necessary because when the Red Line tracks were built in the early 1900s, the owner of the three story building refused to sell, so the tracks were built around it. Red Line trains traveling between Belmont and Addison must now slow down on the turn around the structure at 947 Newport Ave.

Stephanie Cavazos, a spokesperson for CTA, said as the move began on Monday that crews were “going to slide the building” so that the tracks could be straightened – while keeping the 1,000-ton building intact.

The project aims to “help trains move faster, easier and create a more comfortable journey for our customers,” she said. “We want to preserve as much of Chicago’s history as possible.”

Preservation Chicago lobbied for the Vautravers Building to be identified as part of the Newport Avenue neighborhood, a series of houses built between 1891 and 1928. Its monument status protected the building from demolition.

“Unfortunately, we don’t appreciate these buildings the way we should,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “We should use all possible tools to save these buildings like other cities are doing.”

Walsh-Flour project manager Stephen Specht predicts that all renovations will be completed by Thanksgiving.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Contractor Walsh-Flour’s design-build team removed the original foundation and placed the building on layers of beams, according to Stephen Specht, project manager at Walsh-Flour. After its move, it will be renovated.

“The whole building benefits from grouting, masonry repair and a new roof,” said Specht. “All historic copper bays are fully restored with … new copper cladding.”

Specht estimates that the complete restoration of the building will be done before Thanksgiving.

People watch the historic Vautravers Building at 947-949 N. Newport Avenue in Lakeview East move out on Monday, August 2, 2021.

The Chicago Transit Authority bought the building for $ 1.75 million. The move costs roughly the same. CTA plans to sell the apartment to a developer afterwards.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Lake View resident Christina Krasov heard about the building’s move from a neighbor and brought her two children to watch on Monday.

“It’s a feat of engineering to be able to move it around and keep it intact,” said Krasov, who lives two blocks away. “It’s kinda unbelievable.”

Mike Cornwall holds up a camera as moving crews move the historic Vautravers building to 947-949 N. Newport Avenue in Lakeview East on Monday, August 2, 2021.

Mike Cornwall, who has lived in Lake View for 45 years, filmed the Vautravers building as if it had moved a few feet on Monday.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

While the neighborhood is excited about this rare event, moving well-known buildings off the construction path is not unprecedented in Chicago, according to Miller.

Case in point: The Briggs House, a city center hotel, was moved in 1857 while people were still inside.

“They had such a celebration that they filled the Briggs House with a group of 1,000 people, who were supposed to attend the event while the Briggs House was elevated. So we should all be inside, right? Miller joked Monday.

While the overall effort to move the Vautravers building doesn’t come cheap – $ 1.75 million to buy the building, an additional $ 1.7 million to move it – Miller hopes these types of accommodations to preserve historic buildings happen more often, instead of the easier, cheaper option of demolishing structures.

“The more we get out of danger, the better,” Miller said.

The support beam covers the side of the historic Vautravers Building at 947-949 N. Newport Avenue in Lakeview East on Monday, August 2, 2021.

The building was lifted with about twenty jacks. Once the building has been moved and a new foundation poured, restorations of its facade will begin.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times


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