Odd Fellows Hall finally makes its move

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SALT LAKE CITY -- After years of planning, and months of legal wrangling that threatened to derail the whole project, an historic building in downtown Salt Lake City finally made its big move Wednesday.

The Odd Fellows Hall was moved across the street in one of the most daring building relocations ever attempted.

The building is one of the biggest brick-and-stone buildings--perhaps the biggest--ever to be moved. The delicate maneuver actually started a year and a half ago; it's now in the wrap-up phase.

Odd Fellows Hall had to go because the land it sat on is needed for a new, expanded federal courthouse. An adjacent building that housed the Port 'O Call nightclub is being torn down, but the U.S. General Services Administration decided to save the Odd Fellows Hall as a vintage commercial building from the 1890s.

The project was on hold for a time while the two companies involved battled each other over terms of their contract. We don't know how that issue was resolved, but we do know the companies were ordered by a judge to enter into mediation.

The move is costing taxpayers at least $6.7 million. Many spectators had mixed feelings.

"I don't know what price you put on history. I mean, some buildings have a little more back-story than others," said panoramic photographer Everen Brown. "What I've read about it, it doesn't sound like the most historic building in town, but I guess you've got to give them credit for trying to hang onto it."

Wednesday's move took place at a snail's pace. The building moved in jumps of 20 to 30 feet, with a long pause in between as cables were repositioned and tightened. The building also has to be turned in the process so it will face the right way when it's in place.

Once the building is stabilized at its new location on the north side of Market Street, the federal government will try to sell it as retail, office and residential condos.

Next door is the restored New York Hotel, which now houses the Market Street Grill and the New Yorker.

"We're glad that we have the opportunity to have a new neighbor that's also a historic building right next door," said Judy Reese, of Gastronomy, Inc.

Reese says she hopes a new tenant in the building will help create more energy in the area.

"We've always felt that business begets more business, so to have a building that is full and occupied with tenants, that's a benefit to the entire downtown area I think," Reese said.

But spectator John Hayden told us, "It strikes me that spending all the money they paid to move this place, I see ti 15 years from now still being a vacant building, and the city's going to have to pay to knock it down."

The fragility of the building has always been an issue. The companies halted the move at one point last year because they worried about cracks. A lot of people wondered if it would simply collapse into a pile of bricks. That did not happen, and Odd Fellows Hall has a new lease on life.

The building still has to be moved one lot to the east. That will probably happen on Saturday.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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