Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Alan Rindlisbacher, marketing director for Layton Construction, stands in front of Salt Lake City's historic Odd Fellows Hall, which will be moved across the street in late May or early June.

The all-seeing eye engraved above the main entry of historic Odd Fellows Hall soon will have a different view of downtown Salt Lake City.

Construction crews are preparing to uproot the 117-year-old building from the south side of Market Street and move it onto the waiting vacant lot across the street and to the east.

"We're going to pack it up and move it," said Alan Rindlisbacher, marketing director for Layton Construction, simply yet accurately summing up the formidable task.

The 48-foot-tall, three-story brick building is being moved to make room for a new U.S. District Court building directly adjacent to the west of the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse — Odd Fellows Hall's current neighbor to the east.

In late May or early June, Odd Fellows Hall will embark on a three- to four-day journey to its future home.

Crews plan to move the building west onto a vacant lot, rotate it 180 degrees so it faces south and then return it to its original location. The building then will be slid north across Market Street and directly east next to the Takashi sushi bar.

"Everything is done in 90-degree movements," Rindlisbacher said. "If it were a car, we could just swing it around and back it right in there. But this is an old, unreinforced masonry building."

Crews currently are in the packing phase of the project — removing glass from windows and filling the openings with masonry; and installing blocks and supports inside the building to help stabilize its unreinforced walls.

When that's done, the building will be fitted with an exterior steel casing. Steel I-beams about 130 feet long will be inserted underneath the building, along with 64-foot crossing beams, Rindlisbacher said.

Sandy-based Layton Construction has enlisted the help of heavy-haul transportation and rigging company Emmert International to assist with the move. Emmert specializes in difficult moves, with a resume that includes the relocation of Howard Hughes' gigantic aircraft, "The Spruce Goose," as well as the Hubbell telescope and the 3.2 million-pound Fairmont Hotel in San Antonio.

"We do just about anything no one else wants to mess with," said Rick Albrecht, an Emmert project supervisor.

The larger steel beams will have jacks in them, which will lift the building enough for Emmert workers to position 56 of their transportation dollies — each with eight mining tires and a jack — under it to make it mobile.

"It's going to take a lot more time to set it up than it will to move it," Albrecht said, "but the move is not going to go that fast, either."

The building essentially will crawl from one location to the next, with the hydraulic dollies adjusting for changes in grade.

Odd Fellows Hall will be among the largest — and most difficult — buildings the firm, based in Clackamas, Ore., has ever moved, Albrecht said.

"The biggest thing with this one is the age and the way they built things back then," he said.

That's also the reason the Utah Heritage Foundation has been working with the federal government for more than a decade to make sure Odd Fellows Hall is preserved.

Built in 1891 for the International Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that engaged in social and charitable activities, the building is one of few remaining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque commercial architecture in Utah, according to the Utah Heritage Foundation.

"One of our primary concerns was what was going to happen to that building," said Kirk Huffaker, executive director of the nonprofit organization. "To see the outcome of the whole process after all this time is a preservation success."

The Utah Heritage Foundation holds an easement on Odd Fellows Hall, which gave the organization a seat at the table in discussions about the building's future. Early discussions had Odd Fellows Hall at risk of demolition or significant changes, Huffaker said. Talks then shifted to moving the building.

"If it had to be moved in order to save it, we wanted it to be pretty much in the same historic context — on the same street, sitting in between other historic buildings," he said. "It really helps complete a great street on Market Street."

The U.S. General Services Administration, an arm of the federal government that secures property for government uses, owns Odd Fellows Hall and is picking up the $5.9 million tab for the move.

After the move is complete, GSA plans to sell the building, spokesman Doug Flanders said.

The building has had several uses over the past century, Huffaker said. Most recently it was an office building, though it also has housed restaurants and has served as a wedding reception center.

All of those are potential reuses for the building after it's moved, Huffaker said. It also could be utilized as a private club or some other business seeking to boost Salt Lake City's downtown nightlife.

"I know that's been one of the city's main goals, to promote nightlife in that part of the city," he said. "A building of this caliber that really raises the visibility in the public because of the move might entice a developer to purchase the building. If it was done right, it could be a success."

Order of Odd Fellows was charitable society

The International Order of Odd Fellows was a secret fraternal organization that engaged in of social and charitable activities. It also offered fraternal insurance programs to assist members and their families in case of an illness or death.

It is no accident that the Utah Odd Fellows decided to build in Salt Lake City. Like most 19th-century fraternal organizations in the United States, the Odd Fellows excluded Mormons and Catholics from membership. The largely Protestant and Jewish members of the Utah Odd Fellows felt most comfortable in the emerging non-Mormon enclave at the south end of downtown.

Source: Utah Heritage Foundation