by Christopher HodappThe historic Masonic Temple in downtown Zanesville, Ohio was gutted by fire last night, and numerous nearby buildings and businesses were ordered to be evacuated (including the Muskingum County Jail's 100 prisoners).
Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities reported.
According to stories in the Zanesville Times-Republic, no statement has been made concerning the source of the blaze, whether it was accidental, faulty wiring, or deliberately set. With the rising number of Masonic lodges being the target of arsonists all over the world, that's a vital bit of business to discover.
Firefighters were called at about 11:00 PM, but the fast-burning flames spread quickly. Although the brick and limestone exterior survived the devastating blaze, the interior floors were almost completely destroyed.
The Temple was opened in 1901 and has been the longtime home of Lodge of Amity No. 5, along with York Rite groups and other appendant organizations. But the Temple was also an important place to the wider community. Between 50 and 60 artists have rented studio space in the Temple for many years. Other renters included a law firm, property management agencies, and a bail bonds agency. Its 7-story height made it the tallest building in the town.
Because the entire structure was completely gutted, it now poses an immediate danger to people and nearby business if it collapses. Zanesville fire department officials have ordered the Temple to be demolished - possibly as early as this weekend.
On Saturday, the first ever Zanesville Arts Walk was to have taken place, with much activity around the Temple artists' studios.
Amity Lodge No. 5 is one of the first five Ohio lodges that formed the Grand Lodge of Ohio in 1806. The lodge sold the Temple building several years ago, but continued to lease their lodge rooms from the new owners. Bill Hosler reports that the lodge had officer's jewels made by Paul Revere on display, as well as the military sword belonging to Rufus Putnam of American Union Lodge No. 1. No word as yet as to the fate of those items.