As the move of a 64-ton building on Pleasant Street that once housed a Bank of America branch nears completion, the impressive engineering feat has drawn small crowds standing behind a fence.
A team from Atkinson, New Hampshire, led by Stan Wildes and his grandson, Bryce, initially maneuvered the mid-19th century structure 15 feet to make room for a new foundation, by positioning the building on skates that resemble miniature upside-down tanks and using a crane to move it. This week, they slid the building into its new foundation using a complex series of pulleys, levers and chains. Before the move, the developer who bought the building had a bank vault torn out of the back.
“Each project has its challenges, but we figure things out and get it done,” Stan Wildes, who has relocated 30-50 houses a year for decades, told the Marblehead Current.
The building will be sold as a single-family home after the move wraps up, and Wildes hinted at possible additions like another structure or garage down the line.
Ray and Diane Curran live in a home that was once the stable for the building being moved. The couple said they and other neighbors are happy the building will become a single-family residence rather than a commercial space.
“It’s going to be a home, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Diane Curran.
They noted the Bank of America building was originally a Hooper family mansion, as was another residence across the street. The most famous Hooper mansion, on Hooper Street, is home to the Marblehead Arts Association.
Maryann Criswell, who has lived in Marblehead for 50 years, said she has seen neighbors conversing about the project.
“I think curiosity,” Criswell said of the neighborhood’s reaction. “I had heard it was being moved today, and I called and texted several of my neighbors.”
Criswell added she was pleased to see the owners invest in moving the structure rather than razing it, calling the latter approach “wonderful.”
The structure received approval for the transition to residential use from Marblehead’s Old and Historic Districts Commission.
The project is being helmed by CenterCorp, owner and developer, and SaltsmanBrenzel Architects and Builders. Thomas Saltsman, the chief architect who also lives down the street, said his team is committed to maintaining the building’s historic aesthetic.
“We were thrilled that they didn’t want to turn it into condos and townhouses,” he said. “There were a lot of discussions about that.”
The move puts the building closer to the Pleasant Street sidewalk.
“We pulled it up here in relation to the other houses on the side of the street,” said Saltsman. “This used to be all asphalt parking, so it just makes the residential area feel more continuous.”
Resident John Hope said he thinks the project is “progress” and called the repurposing “pretty sustainable.”
“You could buy a new construction home, and it’s a lot less expensive than maintaining one of these older homes,” he said. “I think it’s pretty awesome that they are passing it on to the next generation.”
Mariann Vaida, an architect and member of the Old and Historic District Commission, said the project honors Marblehead’s history.
“It’s also transforming what was once a large, underutilized commercial building with a big parking lot into a nice residential space.”