8 Historical Buildings That Have Been Relocated

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Some buildings are designed to last forever—we’re looking at you, Great Pyramid of Giza. Those that aren’t can sometimes be saved through drastic engineering measures and a transatlantic relocation. Here’s a look at eight buildings around the world that have been lifted off their foundations (either in one piece or thousands) and rebuilt in a safer space, ensuring that their legacy lives on.

1. THE TEMPLE OF DENDUR // NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Shinya Suzuki, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Commissioned by the first Roman emperor Caesar Augustus and completed in 10 BCE, the Temple of Dendur—originally in Egypt—was at risk of being flooded by the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the subsequent formation of Lake Nasser in the 1960s.

UNESCO established the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia in 1960, and countries worked quickly to save as many artifacts as possible before the lake submerged 2000 square miles of ancient lands. Egypt gave the Temple of Dendur to the United States in 1965 for its participation in the rescue effort, and President Lyndon Johnson awarded it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The small stone temple was dismantled in Egypt, and the 642 pieces were shipped to the U.S. on the SS Concordia Star. Upon arrival in New York, flatbed trucks carried the pieces from the dock to the museum on Fifth Avenue. When the blocks were unpacked, "not all were numbered and some were found to be numbered incorrectly. Section drawings exist—but they are in French," The New York Times reported [PDF]. Still, a team of stonecutters, carvers, masons, and museum curators were able to reassemble the temple in the custom-built Sackler Wing.

2. LONDON BRIDGE // LAKE HAVASU CITY, ARIZONA

London Bridge, Lake Havasu, Arizona
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In the mid-20th century, London Bridge was quite literally falling down: The weight of modern cars was pushing the Georgian-era bridge into the River Thames. To make room for a new bridge, the granite structure was put up for auction in 1968.

The winning bidder was Robert McCulloch, the mastermind behind the resort community of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. He believed the bridge’s reinstallation in the planned development would attract tourists—and he was willing to pay $2.46 million for the British landmark. The bridge was disassembled, each piece of stone masonry was numbered, and the whole thing was sent off on a ship that traversed the Panama Canal on its way to California. From the Port of Long Beach, the bridge’s pieces were trucked to Arizona, where they were rebuilt according to the original plans.

3. COOK’S COTTAGE // MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Cook's Cottage, Melbourne, Australia
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The great British explorer and naval captain James Cook has a long list of achievements, like being the first European mariner to cross the Antarctic circle and circumnavigating New Zealand, Tonga, and Easter Island. The Yorkshire-born navigator spent time between his adventures at home, reportedly in a small cottage in Great Ayton built by his family. When that house went up for sale in 1933, industrialist Sir Russell Grimwade purchased it for £800 and donated it to the state of Victoria, Australia, in recognition of Cook’s exploration of the continent and to celebrate the centennial of Melbourne.

After the house was taken apart and packed into nearly 300 crates and barrels, it was shipped to Australia aboard the Port Dunedin, along with some of the ivy that once grew up its walls. It was rebuilt in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens, where it stands today. Since then, scholars have determined that there’s no concrete evidence that Cook ever stayed in the house, though members of his family certainly did.

4. BELLE TOUT LIGHTHOUSE // BEACHY HEAD, UK

Belle Tout Lighthouse, Beachy Head, UK
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The original Belle Tout Lighthouse in Beachy Head, England, was deliberately set back 100 feet from the edge of the cliff when it was built in 1832. If the light disappeared from view, approaching ships at sea would know they were in the danger zone. But through the turn of the 20th century, cliff erosion made the lighthouse less effective, and it was decommissioned in 1902. New owners bought it for a private home (and it also served as target practice by Canadian troops stationed on the coast during World War II). The edge of the cliff crept closer and closer.

In 1999, the owners of the lighthouse had to move it back 56 feet. Engineers dug beneath the 900-ton structure to lift it—in one piece—onto four concrete beams, then slid it back on the beams to its current position. It is now a bed-and-breakfast. If erosion continues at the same pace, the lighthouse will have to be moved again in about 30 years.

5. HAMILTON GRANGE // NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Hamilton Grange, New York City
Mike, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Alexander Hamilton reportedly owned only one house in his life, and that was Hamilton Grange in New York City. Located in what was then Manhattan’s uptown countryside (which is now Harlem), the large, airy house sat on 32 acres of land with views of both the Hudson and Harlem rivers. Hamilton’s widow Elizabeth sold the home in 1833, and the city grew up around it.

The house was relocated for the first time in 1889, when the owner, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, moved it 250 feet north to be closer to the church—and to prevent it from being demolished by the construction of 143rd Street, which would have run right through it. The National Park Service (NPS) acquired the Grange in 1962 and, in 2008, decided to move it again. Having deteriorated quite a bit over the decades in that location, the house was in desperate need of a renovation. But since new buildings had sprouted up around it, a full renovation at that site would have been impossible. The NPS settled on moving it a few blocks away to St. Nicholas Park—once part of the original plot of land owned by Hamilton—where it would no longer be crammed between other structures and could be fully restored. The 200-ton house was jacked up, attached by the foundation to steel beams for support, then carefully raised 38 feet up in the air on hydraulic lifts to bypass a porch on another building [PDF]. The Grange was then rolled onto a massive system of dollies on the street that essentially drove the house to its new site.

6. NEWARK LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT BUILDING 51 // NEWARK, NEW JERSEY

Newark Liberty International Airport Building 51, New Jersey
Peter Brandt, Library of Congress // No known restrictions on images made by the U.S. government

Newark Liberty International Airport might be one of the worst-ranked airports in the U.S., but that wasn’t always the case. Built in 1935, Building 51 was one of the most luxurious, state-of-the-art passenger terminals in the world—in fact, Amelia Earhart participated in its dedication ceremony. (She kept one of her own planes at the airport, as did Charles Lindbergh.)

But when new terminals were opened from the 1950s through the ’80s, Building 51 was converted into office space. It eventually faced demolition as part of a runway expansion project. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the airport, received permission from the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office to relocate the Art Deco structure. First, the building was sliced into three pieces with concrete-cutting machinery. Then each section was individually hoisted by hydraulic lifts and placed on dollies supported by 1407 truck tires to be rolled about three-quarters of a mile to its new location. It has since been renamed Building One and today holds administrative offices, though some of the building is open to the public, including the Art Deco lobby and an exhibition on the history of the structure.

7. THE ABU SIMBEL TEMPLES // ABU SIMBEL, EGYPT

Abu Simbel temples and the Nile River, Egypt
Dennis Jarvis, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Like the Temple of Dendur, the Abu Simbel temples were put at risk by the Aswan High Dam. Built into the sandstone cliffs along the Nile under the rule of Ramses II in the 13th century B.C.E., there are two temples—a main one with four 66-foot-tall statues of the king surrounding its entrance, and a smaller one dedicated to the goddess Hathor. To avoid having the temples submerged beneath Lake Nasser’s rising waters, preservationists disassembled and moved them to higher ground. Engineers dug down from the top of the cliffs, dismantled the structures by carving them into 20-ton blocks, and moved them piece by piece to the new site, a 200-foot-high artificial hill built atop their original location. Like the Temple of Dendur, this undertaking was part of UNESCO’s International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia.

8. ST. BERNARD DE CLAIRVAUX CHURCH // MIAMI, FLORIDA

In the 1920s, media tycoon William Randolph Hearst sent teams across Europe to buy artwork to stock his new castle in San Simeon, California. One of his acquisitions was a 12th-century Spanish cloister, which he had workers dismantle, pack into 11,000 crates, and send on a ship across the ocean to New York.

There, the crates were impounded: Customs agents feared the hay used to pad the crates might be contaminated with hoof-and-mouth disease, and the whole shipment was left in one of Hearst’s warehouses. Eventually the hay was burned, and the pieces of the cloister were declared safe for transportation—but by this time, the stock market had crashed and Hearst had lost all his money. The pieces of the cloister were placed on the auction block in 1952, one year after Hearst’s death, and acquired by two Florida men who rebuilt it in Miami as a tourist attraction. The cloister failed to lure visitors, however, and the owners ended up donating it to a local parish.

7 of the World’s Most Fascinating and Beautiful Catacombs

A cross stands in the Roman catacombs
A cross stands in the Roman catacombs
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Jerusalem is a coveted burial spot, but the ancient city is running out of space to bury the dead. In 2015, the Jerusalem Jewish Community Burial Society teamed up with a construction group to bore beneath a mountain in the city’s largest cemetery, Har Hamenuchot, and create a massive underground necropolis that will house 22,000 crypts. The plan is to create burial spaces arranged floor-to-ceiling in a network of intersecting tunnels—a little like the ones that first graced the Middle East thousands of years ago. The first section of the modernized catacombs is set to open in October 2019.

Here are seven of the most beautiful and historically fascinating catacombs from elsewhere in the world.

1. Rome Catacombs

Catacombs originated in the Middle East about 6000 years ago and spread to Rome with Jewish migration. Early Christians modeled their burial practices on Jewish customs, although they were forced by Roman rules to bury outside the city limits. Since land was expensive, they went underground, digging an estimated 375 miles of tunnels through Rome's soft volcanic tuff, and building networks of rooms lined with rectangular niches called loculi. Later, more complex tombs included cubical (small rooms that served as a family tomb) and arcosolia (large niches with an arch over the opening, also used for families). Both were often decorated with religious frescos, gold medallions, statues, and other art. The beauty wasn’t just for the dead but for the living, who congregated there to share funeral meals and mark death anniversaries. (The idea that persecuted Christians secretly worshipped there, however, is a Romantic-era legend.)

By the early 5th century, barbarians had invaded Rome and began ransacking the tombs, so the remains of interred saints and martyrs were moved to more secure locations in churches around the city. The catacombs were forgotten for centuries, until miners accidentally rediscovered one under the Via Salaria in 1578. That set off a rush for relics (often of dubious provenance). Today, Rome’s 40-odd catacombs have been stripped of bodies, but the ancient frescoes and winding passageways make them well worth a visit.

2. Paris Catacombs

Inside the Paris catacombs
Inside the Paris catacombs
Michelle Reynolds/iStock via Getty Images

They weren't the first, but the Paris catacombs might be the most famous in the world, and little can compete with them for sheer macabre glamor. Created by the Romans as limestone quarries to build the city above, their current use dates from the late 18th century, when overcrowded cemeteries around the city sparked public health concerns. (One of the worst offenders was Saints-Innocents, in use for almost a millennium and overflowing with corpses, which wasn’t so great considering its proximity to the popular Les Halles market). Starting in the late 18th century, officials took charge of the situation by relocating the bones—from an estimated six to seven million people—to the former quarries, which were specially blessed and consecrated for that purpose.

The catacombs were opened as a public curiosity in the 19th century, and today visitors can see the bones piled into artful arrangements. (One design is shaped like a keg, another like a heart.) Other attractions include an underground spring, a sepulchral lamp, sculptures created by a quarryman, and special exhibits. Only part of the roughly 200 feet of tunnels is open to the public, although that hasn't stopped intrepid urban explorers, artists, and thieves from journeying to the off-limits sections. In 2004, Parisian police discovered a secret cinema set up inside one area, complete with a bar.

3. Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

A series of tombs tunneled into the bedrock beneath Alexandria starting in the second century, the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa ("Mound of Shards") were forgotten until 1900, when a donkey fell into an access shaft. Today the three levels of catacombs are open for visits, and include several giant stone coffins as well as carvings, statues, and other archeological details melding Roman, Greek, and Egyptian styles. On the second level is the Hall of Caracalla, said to contain the remains of young Christian men (and at least one horse) massacred by Caracalla in AD 215.

4. Palermo Capuchin Catacombs

Mummies in the Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo
Mummies in the Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo
n e o g e j o, Flickr (1) and (2) // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the 16th century, the Capuchin church in Palermo, Sicily, began outgrowing its cemetery and the monks got the idea of embalming their dead brethren and putting them on show in the catacombs instead. At first only friars got this special treatment, but the practice caught on and local notables began asking for the honor in their wills. Roughly 12,000 people have since been embalmed and arranged for display according to demographic—the categories include Men, Women, Virgins, Children, Priests, Monks, and Professionals. Burials didn't stop until the 1920s, and one of the most famous inhabitants is also among the last—the beautiful Rosalie Lombardo.

5. Rabat Catacombs, Malta

The St. Paul's catacombs in Malta
The St. Paul's catacombs in Malta

Beneath the modern city of Rabat, Malta (once the ancient Roman town of Melite) lies an extensive system of rock-hewn underground tombs dating from the fourth to the ninth century AD. Unlike most other catacombs throughout the Mediterranean—and indeed the world—the tunnels were used to bury Jews, Christians, and pagans, without noticeable divisions among the groups.

Features include large tables used for ceremonial meals commemorating the dead and canopied burial chambers, some of which have been inscribed with illustrations and messages (archeologists are still working to interpret the site). Major catacomb complexes in Rabat include those of St. Paul, St. Agatha and Tad-Dejr.

6. St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

A winged skull at the entrance to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral crypt
A winged skull at the entrance to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral crypt
Douglas Sprott, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, St. Stephen's Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the city, known for its gorgeous multi-colored tile roof (and for being the site of Vivaldi's funeral). But fewer tourists visit the crypt, where the remains of more than 11,000 people lie.

Although most of the current cathedral dates to the 14th century, the crypt originated after an outbreak of the bubonic plague in the 1730s, when cemeteries around Vienna were emptied in an effort to stem the tide of the disease. Many of the skeletons were piled into neat rows, skulls on top, although visitors to some areas will also see disorganized piles of bones. In one section, the ducal crypt, the organs of princes, queens, and emperors are stored—including Hapsburg Queen Maria Teresa's stomach.

7. Brno Ossuary

A routine archeological dig as part of a construction project in 2001 led to an unexpected discovery in Brno, the Czech Republic—a long-forgotten underground charnel house crammed with skeletons. An estimated 50,000 sets of remains had been stuffed beneath St. Jacob's Square during the 17th and 18th centuries, originally stacked in neat rows but later jumbled by water and mud. The site opened for public viewing in June 2012, and today it’s the second-largest (known) ossuary in Europe, after the Paris catacombs.

This list first ran in 2015 and was republished in 2019.

The Stories Behind 11 Iconic Skyscrapers

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You may have snaked through a long line of fellow tourists to trek to the observation deck for a breathtaking view from the top of the city, but do you know the stories behind many of the world's most iconic skyscrapers? In honor of Skyscraper Day, we've stacked up some of the details.

1. Willis Tower // Chicago

A picture the Willis Tower in Chicago from the view of a local neighborhood.
ParlierPhotography/iStock via Getty Images

In 1969 the world’s largest retailer, Sears Roebuck and Company, decided they needed an office space for their roughly 350,000 employees. Four years, 2000 workers, and enough concrete to build an eight-lane, five-mile highway later, the 110-story Sears Tower was complete. (In 1988, Sears moved out of the building; 21 years later it was renamed the Willis Tower after global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings.) As a memorable finishing touch, 12,000 construction workers, Chicagoans, and Sears employees signed the building’s final beam.

2. Bank of China Tower // Hong Kong

Low-angle view of Bank of China Tower
shansekala/iStock via Getty Images

When famed Chinese architect I.M. Pei was tasked with designing this 70-story structure, he was dealt a number of challenges. He needed to craft a tall building (it stands at 1209 feet) in a typhoon zone and create a design that was pleasing to local residents. His masterpiece—opened in 1990 after a five-year construction—is supported by five steel columns meant to resist high-velocity winds, and is inspired by bamboo shoots, which symbolize strength and prosperity.

3. Chrysler Building // New York City

New York City's Chrysler Building
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A mere 11 months after it gained the title of tallest building in the world in 1930—thanks to the last minute addition of a 186-foot spire—this art deco wonder surrendered its title to the Empire State Building. But it has long been known as one of the world’s prettiest structures. When automobile tycoon Walter P. Chrysler took over financing, he strove to add glamour to New York’s East Side. The design already featured a multi-story section of glass corners and a stainless steel crown, but he requested the addition of eagle-esque gargoyles designed like the hood ornaments on his cars.

4. The Gherkin // London

London's The Gherkin, 30 St. Mary Axe
YolaW/iStock via Getty Images

Known informally as "The Gherkin" for its pickle-esque shape, 30 St. Mary Axe was dreamed up after a 1992 explosion in London’s financial district destroyed the Baltic Exchange building. Plans for the original design—the much taller Millennium Tower—were scrapped for fear it could affect air traffic into the Heathrow Airport and the sightlines of St. Paul’s Dome. It turns out that the pickled inspiration was a winner; when the cylindrical building opened in 2004, it gained quick notoriety, and was soon used as a symbol for London on bid posters for the 2012 Olympic Games.

5. Petronas Twin Towers // Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Twin Towers the famous landmark of Malaysia
ojogabonitoo/iStock via Getty Images

The world’s tallest twin towers (88 floors each) were completed in 1996 after a three-year build. The steel-and-glass façade was created to reflect elements found in Islamic art, while the sky bridge—between the towers’ 41st and 42nd floors—was crafted with safety in mind. It’s not bolted to the main structure, but rather designed to be able to slide in and out of the buildings to keep it from snapping during high winds.

6. Hotel & Casino Grand Lisboa // Macau, China

Night Macao Skyline, including Casinos such as, The Grand Lisboa and Wynn
fazon1/iStock via Getty Images

When crafting this 58-floor hotel and casino, the Hong Kong architects didn’t take any chances. The $385 million structure, which opened in 2008, was built to resemble a bottleneck—the idea being that it would keep any cash from leaking out, according to feng shui. The outlandish exterior, meanwhile, was intended to look like a combination of crystals, fireworks and the plumes of a Brazilian headdress—all thought to symbolize prosperity.

7. Empire State Building // New York City

Skyline of New York with the Empire State Building
johnkellerman/iStock via Getty Images

For four decades, the famed Manhattan skyscraper held tight to the distinction of being the world’s tallest. (It was eclipsed by the World Trade Center towers in 1972.) But the $41 million structure—featured in movies such as King Kong (1933) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993)—also scored another record: It was built in just one year and 45 days, the quickest for a building of its size. Each week, 3000 workers erected four-and-a-half new floors.

8. Shanghai World Finance Center // Pudong, Shanghai

Jin Mao, Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center at Lujiazui
LynnSheng/iStock via Getty Images

This 101-floor behemoth was built to withstand destruction. There are fireproof floors, wind dampeners, and a glass skin to protect against lightning. (It can reportedly survive a magnitude 8 earthquake.) The building has also weathered adversity. Slated for construction in 1997, progress was delayed due to the Asian financial crisis before it was finally completed in 2008. And the initial design, which featured a circular opening at the top rather than the now rectangular one, had to be reconfigured when critics complained it too closely resembled the rising sun on the Japanese flag.

9. Tapei 101 // Tapei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan downtown skyline at the Xinyi Financial District
SeanPavonePhoto/iStock via Getty Images

Fashioned to resemble a growing bamboo stalk—a Chinese sign of everlasting strength—this $1.8 billion building boasts two records. When it was opened in 2004 (construction took five years), it was the first skyscraper to surpass the half-kilometer mark. It also claims the title of fastest passenger elevator. After boarding on the fifth floor, riders reach the 89th floor observation deck in a speedy 37 seconds.

10. CN Tower // Toronto, Canada

Toronto Skyline with the CN Tower apex at sunset
Redfox_Ca/iStock via Getty Images

In a bid to demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry, railway company Canadian National set out to build the tallest tower in the world. For 40 months, 1537 workers toiled 24 hours a day, five days week, reaching completion in April 1975. (A 10-ton helicopter dubbed "Olga" was commissioned to bolt the 44 pieces of the antenna in place.) In 1995, the American Society of Civil Engineers deemed it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, but 15 years later, its height was surpassed by China’s Canton Tower.

11. Burj Khalifa // Dubai, United Arab Emirates

An aerial view of Dubai's Burj Khalifa
dblight/iStock via Getty Images

At 2716 feet (more than twice the height of the Empire State Building!) and half a million tons, the gleaming desert structure holds a number of records. Among them: tallest building in the world and the tallest freestanding structure. The $1.5 billion, state-of-the-art mega skyscraper was designed by the same firm that dreamt up the Willis Tower and New York’s One World Trade Center, and it opened in 2010 after six years of work. The opening ceremony featured a light and water effects show and some 10,000 fireworks!

This article has been updated for 2019.

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