Cartwrites: A town moves a building ... by hand

Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 in Features

Cartwrites: A town moves a building ... by hand

By Steve Cartwright

Hand over hand. That's how it worked on a balmy Saturday morning. More than a hundred people from kids to grandparents hauled on a long rope and gradually pulled a 19th century one-room school house across Route 173 in Lincolnville Center.

The beauty of it was the lack of any motors or electricity. The entire move, from one side of the highway to the other, was done with human power plus the age-old mechanical advantage of a block and tackle system.

A crew of volunteers had worked for weeks prior to the October 27 date to move the Center School across Main Street to the site of the Dean & Eugley garage, where the old building will become a new library for Lincolnville.

Everything seemed to go like clockwork, as temporary wooden tracks were blocked up, then taken apart and reassembled ahead of the building. It rolled, literally, on pipes and window weights, which were tapped with hammers to keep the old school on course.

Three hours after the first tug on the rope, the school was close to being in place on a fresh-poured cement slab. There is much work to be done; the building was gutted to use as a garage after the school closed in the 1940s. But  the structure retains classic lines and was braced for the big move.

Local people sold coffee, cider, hot dogs and cookies. The whole scene was festive as perhaps 200 people gathered to watch the event or sign up as a "puller." Several former students, now in their 80s and beyond, sat in lawn chairs, taking it all in, smiling.

It wasn't just about saving money, organizers pointed out. It was about building community support.

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