Indiana Fun Fact – Engineers Rotated a Building 90-Degrees While Employees Worked Inside in 1930
With today's modern technology it seems that anything is possible if the right people put their minds to it. Back in October of 2020, engineers in China moved an 85-year-old, five-story, 7,600-ton school building by creating "robot feet" that literally allowed the building to "walk" itself to the opposite side of the block it had sat on since 1935 over the course of 18 days. Pretty impressive if you ask me. But, what's more impressive is when engineers in Indianapolis rotated an even larger building in 1930, before the conveniences of modern technology, and managed to do it while employees continued to work inside day in and day out.
Welcome back to my ongoing series, the not-so-creatively-titled, "Indiana Fun Facts" where I share little tidbits of info with you about our home state that I've discovered and think are interesting with the feeling you might too. In this edition, I'll explain how those engineers managed to move the Indiana Bell Telephone building using nothing but manpower.
Not the Original Plan
The building first belonged to the Central Union Telephone Company after it was built in 1907 on North Meridian Street in downtown Indy. Indiana Bell bought Central Union in 1929 and decided the building wasn't big enough to suit their needs. Initially, they had planned on demolishing it and constructing an entirely new building, but the architect they hired, Kurt Vonnegut Sr., father of famed author Kurt Vonnegut, concocted a plan that would allow the existing building to remain and create enough space on the lot to construct a new building.
The Great Rotation
Vonnegut came up with a plan that would use rails, jacks, and good old-fashioned American elbow grease to rotate the eight-story, 11,000-ton building 90-degrees and place it on the back corner of the lot without having to cut the building's power, heat, or water, or disrupt telephone service to residents in the area, and allow the company's employees to continue working every day while the building moved.
As explained in the video below from Telephone Collectors International, the building "was raised one-quarter-inch using 100-ton ratchet screw jacks and placed on rollers." Every six strokes of the jacks would move the building a whooping three-eights of an inch for a total of 15 inches per hour. The entire move took nearly a month.
Pretty wild, right? I've struggled to fit a couch through a doorway and these guys moved a whole building without disrupting anything! American ingenuity at its finest, and all done by Hoosiers.
More Indiana Fun Facts
If you enjoyed this edition, and enjoy learning unique things about the state we call home, check out the previous editions of Indiana Fun Facts.
- Indiana Fun Fact - Tomato Juice was Invented in French Lick
- Did You Know the First Electric Streetlight in America was Installed in Indiana?
- Indiana Fun Fact - A Tree Has Been Growing on This Courthouse Roof for 140+ Years
- Indiana Fun Fact - Elvis Played His Last Concert in the Hoosier State Before His Death in 1977
- Unique Indiana Fact - First American Soldier to Die in World War I was from Evansville
- Indiana Fun Fact - The First Sears Retail Store was in Downtown Evansville
- Indiana Fun Fact - The Gas Pump was Created in Fort Wayne