The moving of the Rees House: I was there at the perfect moment

The moving of the Rees House:  I was there at the perfect moment
Backing up onto the new lot, a while before I got there/Photo by Bruce Oltman

A lot was written last week about the moving of the Rees house a block north from it's home for the last 126 years at 2110 S. Prairie Avenue.  It cost millions last Tuesday and Wednesday to move the landmark house built in 1888 to 2017 S. Prairie to make way for the new DePaul Arena.

There was so much publicity, so many pictures, so many TV cameras, so many reporters and so much hoopla--and I still couldn't get enough.  I watched it all, read it all and got excited by it all.  Although I was skeptical they could ever pull it off without dismantling the house, at least taking off the rear, gutting the inside--or lightening it in some fashion.

But in fact, the furniture was even in it when it moseyed down the street.  I was a fool.

I really wanted to see it in transit.  It was a true-blue South Loop neighborhood event, not to be missed.  I never saw a house on wheels before. But watching the heaviest house-move in history (more than 750 tons of house, plus the steel wrapping and beams, not to mention 238 wheels) is a bit like watching paint dry.  The house moved very slowly.

It rained on the first day of the move.  Which made the prospect of watching even more daunting. But I did go over later in the day--and it was fun to see the house facing north, smack in the middle of the street at Cullerton and Prairie for its overnight stay.  Waiting for day two when it would back up and turn onto the new lot, kind of like the second step in a three-point turn.

I didn't know exactly when that would be, though.  I had no idea what time the action would take place.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was in a friend's car and telling her about the move when I suddenly realized we weren't' far from the scene.  I asked her if she wanted to see it.  So we drove over to Cullerton and Prairie.  But unfortunately the house was already in place, its bay window peeking out from its new spot.

Or so I thought.

It suddenly started to move backward very slowly.  And I knew it wasn't my imagination because the bay window disappeared.  I was ever so relieved to have seen it move ever so slightly.

We drove into the alley to drive around the block and leave.  But when we got to the back of the new lot, the house was still backing up.  And then it stopped.

And a horn started tooting.

I told my friend she better move, that someone must be trying to get by us in the alley.  But no one was.  And then we realized, the horn was ceremonial. The house movers, the engineers, the contractors, someone involved in the famous transport was blowing a horn.  They were saying "Mission Accomplished."

It was done.  The final moment.  The most important split-second of all.  The absolute finish.  The tooting of the horn.  And I was there.

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