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Thursday, March 05, 2020

West Virginia Masonic Home Being Demolished

WTAP-TV is reporting that the Grand Lodge of West Virginia's Masonic Home in Parkersburg is being demolished this week. The retirement home was originally built in 1921 for West Virginia Masons and their relatives. It has been closed since 2016.

Beginnings of demolition can be seen in this photo from WTAP-TV

The once bucolic setting of the Masonic Home now overlooks the local shopping mall.
In 2017, city and county officials expressed a desire to work with the fraternity in developing new uses for the property. But according to the report by WTAP, Grand Lodge officials will not reveal why the facility is being torn down, nor what - if any - future plans are for the large property.

I am told that the West Virginia Masonic Home had just six residents when it closed in 2016. The Masons in the state were all paying to support a facility their own members did not even patronize. The sad reality is that Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid rules, combined with an avalanche of local, state and federal medical facility requirements over the last 30 years have completely upended the model of care for members that the Masonic homes were built around more than a century ago. They were created as part of a national movement among many fraternal organizations to create a safety net for their members and families at a time when health insurance, federal health programs and retirement packages did not exist. They predated even social security. 

Further complicating matters has been the easy mobility of retirees and their extended families over the last five decades. When extended families largely remained within easy driving distance of each other until the last quarter of the 20th century, the Masonic Home made a perfect retirement location. But with smaller and more distant families as a regular way of life these days, combined with the explosive growth in the home health care industry, living in the same state is no longer that important, much less in a traditional retirement community. In a state like West Virginia where the mountains and weather combine to make winters especially challenging for the elderly, an increasing number of them now flee south to warmer climates altogether instead of just hunkering down in the retirement home across the state. 

It's difficult and whoppingly expensive to operate such a facility today, and in almost every case, they are required by the realities of the retirement insurance programs to be open to the public, not just members anymore. Some grand lodge Masonic homes have found ways to adapt and open up to the public, while still honoring their lifetime commitment to their own members. But others have not succeeded, or have simply abandoned these facilities and historic missions entirely. West Virginia is merely the latest. 

Meanwhile, the downtown Masonic Temple in Parkersburg, built in 1915, was recently sold to the owner of the famed Woodcraft Supply Company. He intends to use it as a toy museum.


  1. The former Odd Fellows Home outside Kansas City, MO, is currently functioning as a winery and function facility with guest rooms. Privately owned, they seem to have an income stream as a wedding venue where guests can stay on the grounds.

  2. These are some sad times in our lives instead of restoring the historical place. Demoing it this generation is fucking with the history of life


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