Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Live in a Masonic Lodge?!

Two stories have been recently published about living in a Masonic Lodge. Now, I love Masonry as much as the next brother but would I live in a Masonic Temple....hmm....maybe.

Masonic buildings have long served our Craft, but an important question has rarely been asked: What is to be done with our buildings after we have left?

I recently noticed in the Los Angeles Times a story about a Masonic Temple that has now been converted into loft apartments. At first, I was a little taken back. "Live in a Masonic Temple, why would anyone want to do that?"

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Long Beach Temple Lofts is a Masonic building that has been converted into a multiple living space. The building has been renovated in many places to resemble the building in its heyday during the 20's and 30's. Thankfully, both the developers of the Condominium and the Historical Society took a special interest in protecting the integrity of this beautiful building. In fact, the Lobby was preserved to the way it had looked during the 20's including the colors used.

The owners of the building give their idea of transforming the building as "adaptive use". This is the idea that a building which once served one purpose will now serve a new purpose in a changing world. I am somewhat suspicious of this idea but if the building is saved, there is at least some hope.

The second story comes out of Brazil, Indiana. This Masonic Temple was purchased by a college professor. The difference between his purchase and the transformation by the loft builders can be summed up by the words of the Professor Chambers, “I’m a Mason myself, [s]o, when I heard it was going up for auction, I wanted to make sure it went to good hands, and I hoped to do something else with it beyond living in it.” Brother Chambers states that he hopes to house galleries of art and be a studio for artists. I think that this is an auspicious event for this 101 year old Masonic building. A brother will keep and protect this building yet has also adapted the building to a new use. This is a very different idea of "adaptive use".

I still lament losing our buildings like the Scottish Rite in Chicago and other places. However, when I see creative uses of buildings that were once ours, I am able to wipe those few tears away and smile. We may have left the building but our spirit will live on through preservation efforts and creative usages.

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