For lovers of lost architectural treasures, it's difficult to scan through the website of Chicago's Urban Remains. That sad site has been documenting the destruction of that great city's neglected, forgotten, "obsolete" buildings for a very long time now.
While their company and their associated Bldg 51 Gallery and Museum near downtown have thankfully preserved tens of thousands of architectural details and artifacts from buildings now gone, most of the edifices these were created for originally have been scraped from the Earth forever. Scrolling through their pages, you will find numberless details, lovingly created by dedicated craftsmen for things as insignificant as doorknobs, elevator call buttons, water fountains, exit signs, or just a dark corner most people never would have looked closely at. It didn't matter in those earlier times, because EVERY single detail mattered, and architects and builders built monuments for the Ages then. Not disposable, featureless, faceless, artless, identical boxes and cubicles. Architecture was an art then, not a commodity or a necessity, but a Craft.
Among the collected online archives of Urban Remains there appear at least two major Masonic temples that were both built in Chicago in the 1920s, and both were designed by prolific local architect Clarence Hatzfeld.
Logan Square Masonic Temple
The first was the Logan Square Masonic Temple at 2451 N. Kedzie Street, northwest of downtown, erected between 1921-3. At the time of its construction, Freemasonry in the neighborhood was booming. The large and impressive Temple building was home to Logan Square Lodge 891 and several appendant bodies - and yet even as big as it was, it still wasn't capacious enough for all of the local neighborhood's Masonic-related activity.
Humboldt Park Commandery No. 79
Logan Square Temple is now the Armitage Baptist Church
Communities change, populations shift, and just reading numbers and figures rarely tells the whole story. Just six years after the Masonic fraternity reached its most enormous size in the U.S. (and Illinois), the Masons of Logan Square sold their building away in the 1960s. It was too big, too costly, too under-utilized by the Masons who had fled to the suburbs, after just forty years or so. The temple thankfully still survives today as the popular Armitage Baptist Church. But how much did Freemasonry change in size and interest in the last century? Consider this.
Logan Square Lodge eventually merged away and became part of William McKinley Lodge 876, which would merge again and again, finally being absorbed into Clarence P. Schwartz Lodge 1163 today. But it's much more complicated than that. Look at that lodge's total combined historical pedigree:
- ELMWOOD PARK No.1163 (Mont Clare No.1040)
- ASHLAR No.308 (Niagara No.992) (Guardian No.1140)
- WRIGHT'S GROVE No.779 (Constantia No.783) (Constantia - Lessing No.557) (Trestle Board No.1032)
- WILLIAM McKINLEY No.876 (Vega Herder No.669) (Logan Square No.891) (Crystal Honor No.1025)
South Side Masonic Temple in 2014
Now, after decades of neglect and the ravages of time and vandalism, Eric Nordstrom has documented its destruction on the Urban Remains website, back in January.
January 14, 2018
I suspect that by now, there's nothing left to mark the former presence of Freemasonry there but a muddy, empty lot.