Detroit's historic Mackenzie house begins slow move Monday

Wayne State University's Mackenzie house in Midtown.

DETROIT – Wayne State University's historic David Mackenzie house will start its slow move to a new location on Monday.

The move of the house is necessary to make space for the new $65 million Hilberry Gateway Performance Complex that will include the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center.

"It's no April Fool's joke," said Matt Seeger, dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. "This historic Victorian home of the founder of Wayne State University will be slowly and carefully relocated. It is an important part of our history and legacy, and we want to ensure it continues to be part of our campus."

Plans for the move are as follows:

  • Beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 1, the house will move south off its existing foundation, onto existing asphalt.
  • On Tuesday, beginning at 8 a.m., it will progress west across the site, through Wednesday. DTE Energy will be on site to lower overhead power lines so the house can pass. Once there, the house will sit until the new basement is completed.
  • Buffalo, N.Y.-based International Chimney Corp. is in charge of the delicate move. This isn't the company's first high-profile Detroit building relocation. In 1997, International Chimney moved the historic Gem Theatre five blocks to make way for Comerica Park. Working with International Chimney is longtime partner Expert House Movers, based in Sharptown, Md,, which was also involved in the Gem Theatre relocation.

Once the Mackenzie house is at its new corner, Detroit-based Walbridge will complete construction of the Hilberry Gateway project, an integrated performing arts complex for theatre, music and dance. Projected to be finished in time for the Detroit Jazz Festival in September 2022, the facility will incorporate the existing Hilberry Theatre, which will be converted into the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center, thanks to a generous gift from Valade.  

The David Mackenzie House was most recently the home of Preservation Detroit.  

"Preservation Detroit is pleased to see Wayne State invest in preserving the home of the university's founder," said Eric Kehoe, president of Preservation Detroit. "Architectural and cultural preservation should be a central part of development across the city, and the university is taking this seriously."

The future use of the house has not yet been determined and is being considered within the larger context of the university's master plan.

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