Moving the Wall

History Book
History Book
History Book

Five years after the dedication of the new headquarters, more space was needed. A wooden building on an adjoining lot was purchased in 1927. Then, in 1930, the City of Portland chose to widen Burnside Street. Since the church was situated on Burnside, twenty feet would need to be taken off the south side of the building. This meant that the rented spaces would have to be reconstructed, the building entrance changed, the seating arrangement altered, and a balcony added to compensate for the loss of seating space. Still, these alterations were minor when compared with the problem of tearing down and rebuilding the exterior brick wall.

No duplicate brick was available, and a substitute would give the exterior of the building a patchy look. Then, out of the dilemma came an idea—that of separating the wall from the body of the building, demolishing the required 20 feet, and then moving the wall across the space and reattaching it to the main part of the structure.

Moving the wall was deemed impossible, but William Paulson, who had supervised the building’s construction, came up with an ingenious plan.

The wall was 100 feet long, 12 inches thick, 44 feet high, and stood 12 feet above the sidewalk level over plate glass windows. City engineers said it could not be moved successfully. However, a member of the church—William Paulson, the man who had supervised the construction of the building—drew up an ingenious system for accomplishing this seemingly impossible task. A track was constructed on heavy timbers, with steel rollers placed under the sections of the wall. The actual moving was accomplished by means of jacks. Volunteer workers operating the jacks were mainly members of the music organization of the church, and their sense of rhythm was advantageous. Synchronizing their efforts and cued by electric, colored lights, the operators rhythmically turned every jack at a given signal.

A view from Sixth Avenue of the scaffolding in place prior to the move.

The moving of the wall began at 8 o’clock in the evening and was completed around 5 o’clock the next morning. Some members spent the night at the scene watching and praying, while others were praying at home. When the job was finished, the wall had been placed within one-sixteenth of an inch of the exact position desired. With God’s help, the seemingly impossible task had been accomplished.

William Paulson and two workers look at the scaffolding on the wall facing Burnside Street.
A news article announced that meetings would resume.

The location at Sixth and Burnside was a soul-saving station in downtown Portland for nearly sixty years. Many pioneer members lived to see their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren pray at the altars where they themselves had been saved. The building was expanded several times, until all available space on the ground floor was utilized to accommodate the office, printing plant, and storage areas.

Replacing the star on top of the sign after a huge windstorm blew it down in October of 1962.

Sunday services were transferred to the tabernacle on the campground in the late 1940s because of parking problems and the growing numbers attending the Sunday services. Then, beginning in June of 1976, weeknight church services were also moved to that location. The headquarters office and printing plant continued to be housed in the Sixth and Burnside facility until 1980, when the move was made to a new office building across Fifty-Second Avenue from the campground.

The traveling sign on top of the headquarters building announces the coming camp meeting.