Be Amazing: Move a Whole Town

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Whether you're looking to become invisible, swallow a sword, quit smoking, find Atlantis, buy the Moon, sink a battleship, perform your own surgeries, or become a ninja, our new book Be Amazing covers all the essential life skills! This week, we'll be excerpting a few lessons from the book.

Hibbing, Minnesota, was a mining town. Established in 1893, it quickly became the largest of several cities built on the Mesabi Range iron-ore deposits. Known as the "richest village in the world," the town grew to a population of 20,000 by 1915 and boasted opulent hotels, decorative Victorian banks, and all the cultural amenities of "big city" life. But, in 1912, a geologic survey revealed that Hibbing was actually closer to the iron ore than any of its founders had anticipated—as in, right on top of it. Clearly, something had to give, and in an area where iron was king that something was obviously going to be the city of Hibbing.

Lust for iron aside, the locals weren't quite ready to raze the town and start over from scratch.

Balancing greed with thriftiness, they simply decided to reuse what they already had—moving the bulk of the town two miles to the south and out of the way of the strip mining machines. Amazingly, for an era when heavy construction equipment was still just a twinkle in a foreman's eye, this plan actually worked. Hibbing survived and the awkwardly placed iron mine, now known as the Hull-Rust, is the largest open-pit mine in the world today, covering 2,291 acres and producing 1.4 billion tons of ore. Granted, your hometown might not sit on top of a veritable gold mine of, well, iron, but if you don't try moving it you'll never know for sure.

YOU WILL NEED

"¢ A town
"¢ Horses
"¢ Logs
"¢ Chains
"¢ A very understanding citizenry

Step 1: LOSE THE FOUNDATION

It was just holding you down anyway! Mary Jane Finsand's book, The Town That Moved, explains how the citizens of Hibbing slowly jacked up their public buildings and homes high enough that they were no longer connected to the foundations beneath.

Step 2: GET ON A ROLL

Giant trees from the nearby forest were felled and stripped to become rollers, which were laid one after another beneath each building. Chains attached the building to a team of horses. As it moved across the line of rollers, workmen would bring the end log around to the front. Hey, we just said the process worked . . . not that it was fast! Moving began in 1919, but the final building didn't make the journey until the 1960s.

Step 3: BE SAFE

The people of Hibbing trusted the movers not just with their possessions but also with their lives. Many houses were actually moved with all the furniture and residents riding inside. Lucky for them, the movers had a pretty solid success rate. Of the 200 buildings moved, only one didn't survive the trip.

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March 6, 2009 - 5:10am
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