Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Tale of Two Masonic Buildings

The unfortunate loss of our Masonic buildings continues unabated. The latest fatality of our loss in membership is the Scottish Rite Valley of Moline, Illinois. The Valley was the last in Illinois to be chartered by the NMJ, between 1924 and 1927. Built and furnished for $450,000, the Cathedral was dedicated May 20th, 1930, the year following the start of the Great Depression.

It's just been put on the market for sale.

From the Quad City Times website:


"It's a sad state of affairs that we have to do this, the membership wants to stay," [Executive Secretary, Ed] Walker said. Increasing costs for maintenance, utilities and upkeep combined with a declining membership are behind the decision, he added. 
The three-story cathedral, located at 1800 7th Ave., is listed for $1.2 million.  
Built in 1929 and dedicated in 1930, the Masonic center is home to four Scottish Rite bodies and many other Masonic bodies that are tenants, Walker said. They include two Masonic lodges, Eastern Star, DeMolay Chapter, International Order of Rainbow,...three York Rite bodies, and the Dyslexia Reading Solutions for Children, a now independent tutoring program that the Valley of Moline helped establish. 
According to Walker, the Valley of Moline is looking for other Illinois Quad-City locations to move to that could house all the Masonic bodies that meet at the cathedral.
The cathedral also leases space to other organizations and uses, including Ballet Quad-Cities, weddings, receptions and other events. 
"This is a wonderful venue for performances," Walker said of the cathedral's auditorium, which can seat more than 500. While rentals have increased, he said it has not generated enough income to keep up with the future upgrades that will be needed. 
It is the same situation facing many of the Masonic centers around the country. In Illinois, he said centers similar to Moline's in Springfield, Chicago and Bloomington all have been sold. Others, he added, "are holding on." 
"In Bloomington, the city bought it as a performance center, but the Masons still have use of it," Walker said, adding that would be the ideal situation here. "We'd just love to be able to stay here." 
Ray Forsythe, Moline's planning and development director, said city staff toured the building after it was first listed, but the city cannot be the owner. "We don't have the funds to do it," he said. However, the city will work with any entity or private buyer that comes forward and has referred some developers to the building.

Location is, unfortunately, everything. I have houses literally across the street from my own home that sell for more than the Valley's $1.2 million asking price. It's a gloomy story, and one that has played out all across the country. 

And yet, the monumental landmarks so proudly built by our earlier Brethren do often live on for other generations.

Out on the West Coast, the former Masonic Temple in Glendale, California, was ambitiously built in 1928 for Unity Lodge No. 368. But the Depression hit the next year, and the lodge struggled until 1934 when the building was foreclosed on. However, several Masonic bodies continued to rent space in it for many years, and a movie theater was added to the ground floor.



The art-deco tower was eventually sold and finally abandoned many decades ago, but now lives again with visionary (and deep-pocketed) new owners. The nine-story building has been repurposed on the inside as dramatic, new office space for the giant international commercial real estate firm, CBRE. 

From a story by Mimi Zeiger on the Architects Newspaper website today:



Originally designed by Arthur J. Lindley but remodeled at various times and then abandoned for three decades, the current 24,000-square-foot rehab by Gensler is the brainchild of developer Rick Caruso. It was done in record time; just ten months from start to finish. 
The most striking space is on the eighth floor, where the elevators dispatch visitors to reception in an unconventional scene. Refurbished multi-paned windows greet guests with vistas of the Verdugo Mountains (and Caruso Affiliated’s Americana complex), but the real drama happens in the reverse view: The floor drops away. Gensler orchestrated the space so that rather than arriving at the bottom of a 26-foot-tall area, visitors take in the retrofitted Masonic Hall and its original dark-wood trusses from the mezzanine.  
New 20-foot-tall windows spill bright daylight across the workplace, outfitted in a minimal palette and featuring all-glass meeting rooms, “focus” and “huddle” rooms, and rows of gleaming white workstations. A bleacher stair, designed for all-staff meetings, leads from the entry to what Gensler principal Carlos Posada calls “the heart” of the office—a boomerang-shaped island that easily multitasks as cafe space, informal desktop, and banquette seating. Round tables and chairs scattered around cater to CBRE’s “free-address” mandate—there are no assigned desks or offices. 
In converting the mini high-rise from clubhouse to flexible workplace, Gensler’s team first had to address larger seismic and structural issues. The building is unique in that every other floor—three total—is a large double-height volume: the top showstopper, the offices on the fifth and sixth, and a yet-to-be-finished third and fourth. In order to maintain the open spaces and introduce large windows, existing concrete-encased-steel and board-formed-concrete walls were upgraded. A pair of elevators (and core), plus two new egress staircases, were added to accommodate the change in tenant occupation. 
For Posada, the success of the space comes from not doing too much. Existing concrete was cleaned and painted, several of the wood trusses were rebuilt, and a sculptural stair was inserted between the sixth and seventh floors to add a sleek counterpoint to the rough walls. “We wanted to honor the building itself,” he explained. 
Currently, the double-height space on the ground floor is raw. Caruso hopes to bring in a restaurant tenant to take advantage of the lofty and historic real estate. One can’t help but wonder if the Masonic traditions will live on—perhaps the host will require a secret handshake and password for VIP access.

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