Historic home of WSU founder is on the move to new address

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A historic Detroit Victorian home of the Wayne State founder is getting a new address.

The David Mackenzie House is moving across campus to make room for a new performance complex. 

The home weighs about 500 tons, said Fran Ahern, senior director of design and construction services.

The challenge is preserving a piece of history - the 124-year-old Detroit home of Wayne State University's founder, now sitting on wheels at Cass and Forest Monday.

"We felt it was really important to preserve the house," said Ashley Flintoff, WSU director of planning and space management. "Instead of tearing it down, we are moving it to Forest and Second Avenue."

As a part of the university's $65 million project to expand its Hilberry Theatre. This move is the first part after months of planning and weeks of prep work.

"Just to get it ready, connect all the hydraulics and make sure it was all level," Ahern said. "Because once it gets out of level, it could be a disaster."

And the process is a gentle one. On Monday morning, crews only able to move the home three inches in an hour and a half.
"Take your time, you have one shot to do this and we have to do it right," said Ahern. "No pressure."

The historical Queen-Anne style home was built in 1895. Wayne State's founder was known to entertain guests inside often showing off his love of learning different languages.

"He was a big believer in providing opportunity for children in the city to have higher education opportunities and he was also a big believer in international students," Flintoff said.

The group Preservation Detroit owned the home most recently, restoring it and protecting it.

"There's so much emotion and so much history tied to the community, the university, we felt it was really important to be a good neighbor," Flintoff said.

The home will now face Forest. School officials have yet to determine the best use for it -- in its new location.
"It's a true testament to our leadership to our administration that they immediately saw the value in maintaining nature of this community and of the neighborhood," Flintoff said.

In the next few weeks’ crews will finish digging the foundation and connect utilities. The entire move of the house is expected to take about a month.