I wish I could say that I spent hours and hours researching what I’m about to write, but I didn’t. I didn’t even read a book. I… watched a Netflix documentary. I know, total copout. Nevertheless, it’s a great story and one that I share with people all the time.

It’s the story of what many would conceive as being impossible. And it’s about a man almost nobody knows about.

It’s about this man, Ellis Chesbrough. Born in 1813, Ellis was hired by the city of Chicago to install the first comprehensive sewer system in America(kind of crazy to think about life without indoor plumbing). Unfortunately, there is only one problem….. Chesbrough’s planned system relied on gravity flow, but The Windy City is totally flat and would be unable to drain into the river.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Not only was Chesbrough in charge of installing the nation’s first comprehensive sewer system, a monumental task in and of itself, but he also needed to find a way to raise the city up to put his proposed sewer system underneath it.

His solution?

Use Railroad Jack Screws

He asked himself - If you can use these to lift a locomotive, why not use them to lift a building?

If you can image a large team of people digging under the foundation of hotels, office buildings, and even entire city blocks to install two-thousands or more of these Jack Screws. Then simultaneously slowly lift the buildings into the air and rebuild the foundation with Chesbrough’s sewer system underneath.

He did this with the entire city of Chicago. In many cases they not only lifted buildings into the air, but put them on rollers and moved them to other parts of the city.

We talk of moving mountains. Chesbrough and his team actually did it.

The next time you’re faced with what seems to be an impossible task, I hope this story helps put things in perspective.

Today is going to be a good day, I have a feeling.


*the documentary is a PBS program: How we got to now -

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