The David Mackenzie House is scheduled to be relocated to a new spot on Second and Forest, one block west of its original location, later this month. The exact date of the relocation of this historical house has yet to be scheduled, said Wayne State Director of Communications Matt Lockwood.
The process will require a dozen industrial hydraulic jacks, steel cribs and two days said Tyler Finkle, project manager for the Mackenzie House relocation. The house will be placed onto the hydraulic jacks with protective cribbing encapsulating it — a process which takes a few weeks, he said.
The house will then be placed on large axle dollies that will allow the house to travel through an old WSU parking lot to its new address in roughly two days, Finkle said.
WSU contracted International Chimney to oversee the project. The company specializes in constructing, repairing and relocating steel and masonry structures. According to its website, the company has relocated 14 historical structures across the United States.
Finkle said in comparison to the company’s other projects, which include 1997 Detroit’s Gem Theater relocation and the 1999 North Carolina Cape Hatteras Lighthouse relocation, this project “will not be too difficult for the team.”
Ten workers are involved in the relocation of the approximately 500-ton landmark, Finkle said.
The relocation of this 124-year-old house is part of the Hilberry Gateway Performance Complex project, passed by WSU’s Board of Governors on March 23, 2018. The house is being moved to make room for the expansion of the Hilberry Theatre.
The Queen Anne-style house represents the fight for historical preservation in Detroit.
In 1975, The South End reported that the university desired to build a sewer line on the property for a nearby apartment complex. Two students, Allen Wallace and Marilyn Florek, heavily resisted the demise of the building and assisted in the cancellation of the demolition.
Wallace and Florek’s opposition created the first preservation group in the city called Preservation Wayne, which later became Preservation Detroit.
The Mackenzie House was Preservation Detroit’s headquarters until 2018 when WSU alerted the non-profit organization that it would need to find a new headquarters, according to an article by Crain’s.
Preservation Detroit has since moved to the Albert Kahn-designed Temple Beth El in Detroit, according to the organization’s website.
“We're glad to see Wayne State University is preserving their one-of-a-kind historic structures and look forward to helping reactivate the house after the move,” said Preservation Detroit President Eric Kehoe.
Slone Terranella is news editor of The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cover photo by Miriam Marini.