Print Shop On the Move

Jeff Willmore

A man with the seat ripped out of his jeans, cussing like a longshoreman was face to face with a withered up dead raccoon while he crawled on his belly under the Print Shop. Murray works hard because it is difficult work moving buildings, and this little building proved more difficult than most.

With the exception of the replication of our storefronts, the relocation of the London Free Press Print Shop is the last capital project as laid-out in the master plan. It is a small wood-framed building that should be an easy job by building moving standards. It wasn't however, and let me tell you why.

Sins of the past return to haunt the present; the building was poorly built and plunked down without a foundation right in the dirt. From the aspect of long-term structural durability the thing never had a chance. The building is in three parts, the original structure and two additions; one built on the south side and other at the back. We had no way of knowing exactly what the floor structure consisted of, we couldn't see under the building and the different sections had differing joists. We made our best guess from what we observed in the flooring and planned from there.

The lift was fraught with trouble. There was substantial rot in a large area of the floor joists and animal damage in other areas. These issues were compounded by the odd coincidence that had the placements of the heaviest equipment over the most damaged areas. When we picked the building up it almost fell apart, the presses and type cabinets threatened to go through the floor. The front wall became unstable, wracked and the windows busted and fell apart. As the building lifted the floor separated from the walls and stayed in place. We had to scurry inside and redistribute the weight as best we could. After three hours of complete panic it was in the air we could see what we were up against. Not only rot and structural damage, but we discovered each section of the building had floor joists of differing depths. As built, it would be impossible to sit down on any foundation, we would have to modify everything.

The hard work of a resourceful crew eventually got the structure stable, secure on its supports and the wheels under it. From that point on the move was as uneventful as these things can be. Once placed, the building was left hovering over the new foundation and work continued. Whole areas of the under-structure were re-built or ‘sintered’, plates were installed to accommodate the uneven structure and repairs were made to damage caused by the stress of the move.

It is a good and great thing that we now have this building on a proper foundation. A couple of more years in its previous situation and we would have lost a proud and important stalwart element of our programming. The grief we experienced with this project is a classic case of short term pain that delivers long term gain. If we can keep the seat in our pants the old thing will be snug in place, serviced and ready for programming long before you read this column.