"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


“The Masonic system represents a stupendous and beautiful fabric, founded on universal purity, to rule and direct our passions, to have faith and love in God, and charity toward man.”
— William Howard Taft

Friday, December 15, 2017

Shamokin, Pennsylvania Lodge Destroyed By Fire


The home of Shamokin Lodge 255 in Shamokin, Pennsylvania was completely destroyed by a devastating fire yesterday morning. Despite a recent sale of the building, the lodge continued to meet in the top floor until now.

From an article on the DailyItem.com website by Eric Scicchitano:


Maybe it’s silly to mourn the loss of a building to fire.
Maybe it’s misguided to hold too dear the landscape of wherever one calls home.
Make no mistake, though, the city of Shamokin took it on the chin again when one of few downtown properties that still held a glimpse of a prideful past burned up and was partially torn down.
The Masonic building, originally built as a YMCA, stood at Independence and Eighth streets since 1901. Today, it’s gone, reduced to a pile of brick and mortar and memory. Skeleton walls surround the debris, fated to join the pile.
First responders arrived on scene shortly after 1:30 a.m. Thursday amid sub-freezing temperatures and a light snowfall. They found the four-story building fully involved. Flames were visible, shooting from several windows of the building’s first three floors.
Heavy smoke blew through windows and the brick walls throughout the structure.
Shamokin Fire Bureau initially mounted an interior attack, a brave but impossible move. The fire spread fast and burned hot.
“Once the guys made entry, the third-floor windows actually blew out and flames came out into the street,” said Deputy Fire Chief Steve Jeffery.
Fire chiefs on the scene quickly called for a second-alarm and made the decision to take a defensive position from the outside. No one was inside and the building is separated on all four sides by city streets and a parking lot.
[snip]
Clayton Andrews, of Pottsville, looked uncomfortable as he sat in a chair before sunrise Thursday inside city hall on Lincoln Street, across Shamokin Creek from the fire scene. He clasped and unclasped his hands as he spoke about the building he bought in August for a $45,000 investment.
“My stomach, I’m a wreck. I don’t know what to do,” Andrews said.
Beloved among residentsThe building is known to those familiar with the city as the former home of the Fun Shop. More so than the gift shop itself, the Fun Shop’s female clerks endeared themselves to their customers which endeared the store to Shamokin and its visitors.
After eight decades in the building’s basement, the store closed for good in April 2016. Messages of goodwill and goodbye were scrawled in marker on the glass door. A sign announcing the store’s closing remained in a window.
The building had been a hub for professional services in the past, too.
Andrews said there were currently four tenants: A Piece of Cake bakery, Geisinger Home Health & Hospice, accountant Francis Sobotor and the Shamokin chapter of the Free and Accepted Masons. Geisinger, though, was at the end of its lease and had already ceased operations there, a spokesman confirmed.
The Masons were constituted in 1851 and moved into the Temple above Independence and Eighth in 1909 after buying the building from the YMCA. Its third-floor meeting space is described in Shamokin’s centennial book published in 1965 as “what is acknowledged to be the largest and most beautiful subordinate Masonic lodge room in eastern Pennsylvania.”
A century after 400 Masons attended the ceremonial first meeting in the new lodge, Andrews hoped for new tenants to move in. He said he had a doctor lined up and another potential tenant looking to open a fitness center in the basement.
Recruitment is over. Instead, Andrews worked with City Administrator Robert Slaby to contact his property’s insurer and arrange demolition.
“I’ve got to figure out how to get this down. They said it’s not safe,” Andrews said hours before the figuring out was completed.
Figuring out the cause of the fire and its point of origin is ongoing, according to Zimmerman. Shamokin Police Patrolman Ray Siko, the city’s fire investigator, was on scene Thursday.

Shamokin Lodge 255 was chartered in 1852 and was home to Northumberland County's first Knights Templar Commandery. I can only assume that those historic archives are all now destroyed with the building. 

Shamokin is in central Pennsylvania, located roughly between Harrisburg and Scranton. I am unable to find a website or Facebook page for the lodge, so I have no information at this time about what their future plans may be. Below is the only color photograph I have been able to find online of what was their beautiful lodge room before the fire (I do not know the source).


An earlier black and white image was posted by Dalado Photography:





UPDATE 12/19/2017:

According to an article on the News-Item website today, fire investigators permitted the lodge's members to enter the building's wreckage on Monday. Five safes containing historical documents from the lodge are still intact in the rubble and appeared remarkably undamaged, giving hope that the contents survived the fire. However, they could not be accessed or removed at this time. The lodge fortunately did have renter's insurance, but there has been no announcement of their future plans yet.





2 comments:

  1. The mortality rate of our temples through fire, sale, demolition, is not only linked to membership decline but actually contributes to the decline since the buildings were in their heyday an incentive to join and be identified with such imposing edifices. There should be a national program with leadership from brethren who are realtors, architects, and other knowledgeable, to help find solutions. And the disappearance of the libraries and archives that were in the defunct buildings is another blow. Masonic heritage is peddled on eBay daily. The situation is an accelerating catastrophe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So sad to see another great old lodge building go down.

    ReplyDelete

ATTENTION!
PLEASE sign or otherwise identify yourself in your comment posts. I have been FLOODED for months with spam comments, and I've been forced to laboriously screen every post now. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers as far as I am concerned, and may be deleted if I don't recognize you or if I'm in a grumpy mood.