Lesley University makes Monumental Move, Literally

Lesley University makes Monumental Move, Literally

Lesley University is restoring and relocating a 188 ton historic Church to pave the way for the new Lunder Arts Center in Porter Square

  • Posted on: 9 December 2013
  • By: lorijobe

Lesley University, in its largest capital investment to date, just got one step closer to completing the Lunder Arts Center, a $46 million project. On Thursday morning the North Prospect Congregational Church, built in 1845 by Isaac Melvin and designated as a historical landmark, was moved 100 feet south. To be more accurate: It was first lowered 7 feet, to its original height relative to ground level, 100 feet south, then 24 feet closer to Mass. Ave. The Center will be comprised of a new building (located where the Church once stood), and a 2 story glass structure will connect the new building with the restored and relocated Church.
sketch of new facility
Sketch of the new Lunder Arts Center. Image courtesy of Bruner Cott & Associates, Architects & Planners.

The new Lunder Arts Center will be located in Porter Square and has been seven years in the making, it is slated to open in January 2015. It will house studios, classrooms and faculty offices. The ground floor will house exhibitions open to the public, nurturing a more engaged sidewalk life along Mass. Ave. More details about the project, time-lapsed video of the move and historic photos showing the transformation of the church over the last 168 years, can be seen on the University’s website.
The move was visually stunning for neighbors and passersby. Children chanted “move that church”, while the public snapped pictures and constructions workers smiled and enjoyed the awe they inspired in a fascinated and amazed audience. John Sullivan, Director of Communications at Lesley University, said “It is an honor and rare privilege to bear witness to an important moment in history, both for Lesley University and the City of Cambridge”.
This is the second time the church has been moved. The church was originally located in Harvard Square and moved to its recent location at Porter Square in 1867 by a team of draft horses which took 21 days to complete! The building was then raised to accommodate a lower level and a large addition was built on the rear of the church in 1872. The objective of lead architect Simeon Bruner of Bruner Cott & Associates, is to restore the church to its original height and provide a more prominent location for the church by moving it closer to Mass Ave. The church was moved 100 feet laterally in order to provide a better architectural transition from the neighboring Art Deco building.
hydraulic panelrollerswood pylons and ibeam 3
The control panel (photo far left) is the device used to regulate the hydraulics pushing the steel rollers (photo left, image courtesy of Mary Holbrow), which the building sits on, across the steel I-beams. Engineering technology has come a long way since draft horses.
The stained glass windows were temporarily removed and put in storage to prepare for the move. Guarducci Stained Glass Studio of Great Barrington, Mass., will be restoring the windows. The University will reinstall the stained glass over the next several years. Meanwhile a “scrim” will be placed into each window casing to replicate the original stained glass. A replica of the square belfry and dome (circa 1900) is being built by Jan Lewandowski in Vermont.


Love it! Nuts & bolts forever!
Glad to know about the stained glass windows, too -- I was wondering if we'd see those again..
Mary H.