Wednesday, March 31 was a historic day in Rockport. All 272 tons of the Kline’s Cafe Building (KCB), which operated for more than 80 years as various businesses, made its way across Austin Street, west down North Street, south on Magnolia, and then, finally, a jog to the east on St. Mary’s Street, all under the watchful eye of Ram House Movers, with the assistance of LW Oney House Moving and Dodson House Moving.
Large crowds gathered all along the route to watch history being made.
RAM House Movers’ Lilly Wilkinson said, “All in all it went pretty smooth.”
The move was originally scheduled to begin about 9 a.m., but was delayed about four hours when the pumper unit, which drives the hydraulic motors on the dollies, would not start.
Everything worked fine the day before when the KCB was inched forward up to the sidewalk on Austin Street.
“I want to thank the Aransas County (Road and Bridge Department) for coming to the rescue (and making the needed repairs and adjustments),” said Wilkinson.
The KCB finally began it’s slow journey at about 2 p.m. Work stopped, with the building close to its final resting place, at about 8:30 p.m. St. Mary’s was blocked off Wednesday night.
“The move was very successful,” said Wilkinson. “With the delay, we worked through it without eating.”
On Thursday morning the moving crews were back in place and positioned the KCB on the lot, hovering above its new permanent foundation.
The move involved eight dollies.
“We had to use eight instead of 10, because with the positioning of the dollies, the stress on the building would have been too much,” said Wilkinson. “It was pretty hard on the tires, but we made it.
“Everything worked out.
“I love Rockport, and get to move a lot of historic buildings.”
(Note: Ram House Movers has worked on significant projects in Texas, most notably relocating the History Center for Aransas County to its present location on Cedar Avenue, as well as moving the Stillman House from Corpus Christi to its present location in Brownsville.)
After the foundation is completed, placing the KCB at an elevation to meeting FEMA elevation standards, Wilkinson and her crews will return for a final two days’ work to complete the job.
She praised the community for its response to save the KCB.
Moving almost 300 tons across city streets can affect underground infrastructure, but precautions were taken to keep that from happening.
Underground utilities were marked at the surface and the rolling KCB avoided those areas. In places where that was not possible, heavy steel plates were placed over the areas to help distribute the weight.
The plates were also placed over the curbs before the KCB was turned south on Magnolia, and east on St. Mary’s.
“Everything worked well,” said Rockport Public Works Director Mike Donoho. “The plates were placed over all the manholes (and other sensitive areas) along the route to make sure the shear weight of the KCB didn’t damage (the infrastructure beneath the ground).”
City crews inspected the area and utilities Thursday morning.
“It doesn’t appear that anything was damaged,” said Donoho.
“It was amazing how fast it (the move) went once they hit Magnolia. Making those two turns took a lot of time.”
Also on hand were crews from AEP-Texas. They had to move overhead electric lines to make room for the KCB to pass.
The Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA) wrote a detailed relocation plan that was approved by the Texas Historical Commission. In 2020, RCA retained Dallas architectural historian Amaterra, LLC to prepare historical documentation regarding the 70-plus-year-old structure. It was determined that the KCB is significant under Criterion C, architecture, as a good example of Art Moderne at the local level of significance.
The historical documentation can be found at RockportArtCenter.com.
Construction on the RCA’s new downtown Rockport campus can begin in earnest now that the KCB has been moved to its new location.
Who will own the building?
The KCB title will transfer to a commercial interest controlled and managed by Ron Meyeres, proprietor of Austin’s Upside Ventures LLC. This transfer will occur once the building is laid on its new foundation at the relocation site.
Upside Ventures LLC paid for the relocation in exchange for title ownership of the building. Restoration and maintenance of the building will be the responsibility of the new owner.