Friday Feb 03, 2023

From Hamilton to Belleview Inn: Company that moved Southport home has history of moving big things – CT Insider


Lifting hundreds of thousands of pounds and moving it somewhere else is a hard enough job when it’s done piecemeal, but Wolfe House and Building Movers has spent half a century moving large structures in one shot.

Joe Burns, a sales manager at the company, said the business has moved everything from houses and hotels to churches and barges in jobs all over the country.

Burns said the company specializes in house lifting and moving, as well as in manufacturing lifting equipment such as dollies, hydraulic jacks and shoring posts. Wolfe’s main office is in Pennslyvania, but the company has five other offices throughout the country.

“We moved two tobacco barns up in Connecticut,” he said, of his favorite move. “They were over 200 feet long. That was pretty interesting. We had a lot of dollies in there and we moved it a little over a quarter mile across a field and two roads.”

Burns said the company has moved other historic buildings, including the Hamilton Grange National Memorial in New York City — Alexander Hamilton’s home.

According to the company’s website, it was contracted to move the 119-year-old Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair, Florida just to the west of Tampa in 2016. The five-story building weighs 3.5 million pounds.

In Fairfield, it also moved the Penfield Pavilion in 2016 while the 11,000-square-foot venue was repaired.

All this work is done, Burns said, with a typical crew of four or five people — many of them with backgrounds in construction.

“It’s just specialty work,” he said.

One aspect of the business is lifting houses higher so their structures can be raised, Burns said.

“When you have storms like Ida or Sandy or something like that, a lot of people look into raising their homes because of rising water issues,” he said. “That’s a big part of our business.”

Burns said the company also does work in northern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts, where the presence of a naturally occurring iron sulfide, pyrrhotite, has caused foundations to fail. The company lifts homes there so a new foundation can be laid.

“When it’s exposed to water and oxygen (the foundation) kind of cracks and pops,” he said. “The foundations crumble a little bit.”

When Wolfe lifts a house, it starts with disconnecting utilities such as gas, water or electricity lines, Burns said.

“Anything that hangs below the first floor joist systems,” he said. “Then, what we do is come in and excavate a little bit… so that we can install our steel.”

Burns said the company then builds crib piles — large pieces of wood that look like Jenga blocks. Large steel beams are then inserted through the foundation underneath the floor joists.

The number of steel beams that get placed underneath the building largely depends on its weight, Burns said. For example, a building primarily made of stone is significantly heavier than one made of wood.

“Once we have our steel inserted, we would install our jacking systems inside the crib piles and tie it into a unified jacking system, which we manufacture here in PA,” he said. “We lift the house up to what the customer wants — …….


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