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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Evansville, Indiana Masonic Temple Endangered

Evansville, Indiana's downtown Masonic Temple was opened in 1912. In 1982, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, due to declining numbers and rising costs, the Temple is in imminent danger of not making it to its centennial celebration next year. And that's a damned shame.

The Temple is home to Evansville Lodge No. 64, Reed Lodge No. 316, Lessing Lodge No. 464, Constellation Lodge No. 748, Daylight Lodge No. 752, along with the Scottish Rite Valley of Evansville and the Evansville York Rite bodies of Evansville Chapter No. 12 RAM, Simpson Council No. 23 and LaValette Commandery No. 15 Knights Templar.

From today's Evansville Courier & Press, "Both Masons and their lodge face a perilous future" by Joshua Claybourn:

"The once proud tradition of Masonry now faces declining membership and dues and rising maintenance costs, putting a tremendous financial strain on lodges. On June 13th local Masons will vote on whether to sell the building they've called home for nearly 100 years.

Masonic lodges have been a fixture in town since 1819, the same year that the City of Evansville was incorporated.


The building is an impressive classical revival structure measuring 72 feet by 104 feet, with four stories and a basement.

The exterior walls of the first two floors are faced with stone and the stories above trimmed with both stone and terra cotta. The interior floors and partitions are supported by steel columns and girders, also following the Roman classic order.

The attention to detail and strong, quality craftsmanship of the structure is entirely appropriate for a Masonic Lodge.

Masonry has its roots in stone masonry guilds and is structured around the allegorical metaphors of the building trades, and in particular the building of King Solomon's Temple. The impressive masonic meeting room is built to model the dimensions, in cubits, of Solomon's Temple.

Brethren can tell me all day long that Freemasonry is not a building, and that these temples are white elephants, and that it makes so much more sense to go into a cornfield and erect a nice, cheap, steel pole barn. I say our grandfathers would slap us all in the mouth and denounce us for being cheap, shortsighted, visionless cravens. They built these irreplaceable homes for us, and all they asked of us was to maintain them. When we pitch them overboard, we lose a part of our history, our image and our own self esteem that we can never get back. When we let them slip away because we are too helpless to figure out how to form trusts, foundations and long range building funds to keep the roof from leaking, after our forefathers actually did the hard work and made real sacrifices and financial commitments to build them in the first place, what does that say about us?


  1. oh Chris you know I think like you. These buildings represent Masonry to the public and when one closes, especially a big one, the public figures we failed and closed also. I know first hand it is no easy job to keep such a building open. But I hope the Indiana GL does not have blocks in place that would forbid the temple from renting to people. The way to keep one of these temples open is to let it get used by non members for meetings, weddings, plays, wedding receptions. etc. Does GL know that weddings are big business? We just booked one for 20 grand. If done right you can have 25-50 weddings per year. I wish them good luck in keeping the temple open and owned by Masons.
    Russ Spice
    Detroit Masonic Temple

  2. I agree with Russ: rentals.
    We cannot save these buildings if we continue to act like lodge dues or building funds should cover all the expenses (seeing as how few Lodges maintained any semblance of rationality regarding dues and inflation issues).
    However, to do this, those who are in dry GLs which allow ZERO alcohol, even if it isn't a Lodge event, on Lodge premises, need to get those GL codes changed - but that's unlikely to happen, for the same reason no one wants to bring dues inline with what they should have been given inflation: it's too much.
    My Lodge sold off our building to a church group who had been renting it - we could not bring the building up to code (handicap access and rewiring for a central panel fire alarm system) and afford to pay our other bills. Not long after we sold the Lodge building, the Lodge merged. Coincidence? I will have fond memories of that building, as it was where I served for a year as Master, after we had started to raise dues, but we still couldn't make it happen.

  3. Chris,
    The word I have is that the Evansville Temple will cease to be the home of the Evansville Masonic bodies sometime this year. New properties have been purchased and this building is on the market. While sad, the old building was to costly for them to get back into a "livable" state.
    Chris K.


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