History of the Clarke House Museum
Thorough architectural and historical studies of the house were conducted, and procedures for its relocation were developed. There was no way to move the house to its new site without encountering the elevated train (the ‘L’) structure which had not existed when the house was moved south in 1872. The City Architect and architecture consultant Wilbert R. Hasbrouck studied ways of surmounting the obstacle of the ‘L’. Among the possibilities considered and rejected were slicing the house into sections, and airlift by helicopter, an overnight removal and replacement of an ‘L’ span over one street, and an excavation that would allow the house to move under the ‘L’ tracks.
The decision was made to lift the 120 ton structure over the ‘L’. The house was picked up and transported on wheeled dollies to the point where the ‘L’ crosses 44th Street between Calumet and Prairie Avenues. There the house was slowly jacked up twenty seven feet on wooden cribs until it stood slightly above the ‘L’ tracks. At exactly one minute after midnight on Sunday, December 4, 1977, when ‘L’ traffic was at a minimum, all train service on the line was halted. Temporary rails were laid across the tracks, cables were attached to the house, and trucks on the street below pulled the house slowly across the tracks. Despite the very cold weather, about 2,000 people gathered to watch as the house moved over the tracks and onto another set of cribs on the east side of the ‘L’. Soon the trains were running past the house once more.
In the bitterly cold weather, the hydraulic equipment that would have lowered the house froze. When the weather finally warmed up on December 18, the house was lowered and moved to the new site. A new foundation was then built fit the idiosyncrasies of the very old structure.