Yale Relocates Historic Prospect Street House to Adjacent Lot on Edwards Street

A historic house that had been located at 285 Prospect Street for nearly 100 years was moved to 380 Edwards Street by Yale contractors to preserve the historic structure and make way for the construction of a new Yale science building, part of a $500 million effort underway to revitalize and expand facilities on Yale’s Science Hill.

Built in 1910, the Colonial Revival-style building, which will continue to be used by the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at its new address, made a 300-foot trip that began on May 14 and concluded May 21. Weighing in at 720 tons, the 10,000-square-foot house was first jacked up about eight feet, placed on a stacked support while the old foundation was stripped away and giant steel I-beams - two feet high by one foot wide and 65 feet long and each weighing 7 tons - that would serve as supports in transit were inserted through openings cut into the walls. Under the jacked-up house, contractors wheeled in six 8-wheel dollies made from the four-foot high tires of a 727 and capable of supporting 500 tons each, upon which the house would rest once it was lowered.

The first leg of the trip began last Wednesday, when the structure was slowly - at about 10 feet an hour - wheeled rearward to the farthest point on the cleared lot. For the next three days, as workmen created a roadbed of thick wooden planks crisscrossed atop one another, the 50-foot-square house was again slowly pivoted 90 degrees to the right and then moved forward 150 feet to face Edwards Street over the skeleton of its future foundation - now just a wall of iron rebar jutting out from poured concrete footings.

“Someone asked why we couldn’t just roll the dollies on the compacted dirt instead of the planks,” said Chuck Ebern, of Yale’s Office of Facilities, the project’s supervisor. “It compacts the dirt quite a bit more.” The project’s general contractor is New-Haven based Paragon Construction and the move contractor is Nicholas Brothers of Tarrytown, NY.

The house will be jacked up, placed on stacked wooden supports, and eventually lowered onto a new poured concrete and block foundation built and fitted exactly under the structure. A new side entrance will be constructed to make passage to an adjacent building easier, and the entire foundation will be backfilled, covering up the dirt highway that made the move possible and topped off with an asphalt parking lot.

As part of its continuing effort to rehabilitate and use existing historic structures on campus, last year Yale dedicated the former Davies Mansion on Prospect Street, renamed Betts House after major donor Roland K. Betts. The mansion had endured years of neglect and a major fire, but Yale architects and designers saw the plan through to completion to restore the house while maintaining many of its original details and updating its mechanical services. Today it serves as headquarters for the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and the Yale World Fellows Program.