The challenge: How do you fix a historic property when the foundation is literally turning to dust?
With eight hydraulic jacks, a whole bunch of patience and a lot of wooden planks.
The Hollywood Women’s Club is being boosted 12 feet vertically this week in order to allow crews to get to work to fix the crumbling foundation, which had been partially made from beach sand.
“It was in really bad shape,” said Charles Jordan, the general contractor on the project. He said it got so bad that when you walked through the building, you could actually feel the slant of the floor.
“We had to do this now or the building would be gone,” he said.
The old green-and-white building, which sits at 501 N. 14th Ave. on land donated by the city’s founder Joseph W. Young, has served as a meeting space for Hollywood’s women since 1927.
It was there, at what was originally called the Woman’s Club, that Hollywood’s first ladies established the city’s first library and raised money to lay the first telephone lines and fun local hospitals. They also created a city archive, which they keep in the historic building.
There have been small repairs over the years, but when Hurricane Wilma ripped through in 2005, it became evident that something had to be done, said Shelly deMarco, chairwoman of the restoration committee.
In 2008, the restoration began in phases. A new front wall was built, an air conditioning system was installed and a new roof was put on.
“We were collecting the water in pots,” said Isabel Wise, the club’s project manager.
These quick fixes were only meant to stabilize the building while members worked to raise money for more repairs.
But everyone knew something major had to be done in order to save the building from being part of history.
“We knew we were going to lose it,” said Wise.
From bake sales to barbecues and raffles to contests, the nearly 100 Women’s Club members, who range in age from 21 to 98, worked to raise money to save the original clubhouse, which was designated a National Historic Site in 1995.
The project will cost about $210,000 — $50,000 of which came from a federal grant — but there is more work to be done, said deMarco.
The next phase is to make the building handicapped accessible, with a ramp in the back and wider doors.
But first the foundation has to be rebuilt.
And before workers can pour a new one, the 72-ton structure had to be lifted 12 feet in the air.
Pat Burdette, the president of Modern Movers, called it a slow and tedious process.
It began with crews chipping away at the old concrete and crawling under the building to place the jacks that are connected to a 24-horsepower unified motor.
Every six inches, the process had to halt while the machines were reset.
Now held high by planks, the building will remain there for about six weeks while the new foundation is put in.
Club members, many whom came out to watch the building rise, say the cost and time is worth it to preserve the original clubhouse — where the tradition of volunteerism and charitable work continues eight decades after it first began.
“It’s our link to the past,” said deMarco. “It’s not something that can just be replaced.”