Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wisconsin Masonic temple being renovated as community outreach center

The story of a restoration project of a formerly luxurious Masonic lodge building in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin not only gives us a glimpse into the past physically, but also acts as a metaphor for what happened to our Fraternity in the mid-20th century.

Like Freemasonry of old, this temple was once abundantly opulent. It was once "duly and truly prepared." Then,
During the 1960s, the arched store windows on the first floor were replaced with single panes astride a standard commercial door. Side windows were filled in, ceilings were lowered and any vestige of age was either removed or concealed.
It was just after World War II that Freemasonry saw an upswing in membership, when being part of a "club" became popular. Many Masonic writers point to this time period as being when the West Gates were flung open to the masses who paid little heed to the meanings of Masonry. Not only were ceilings lowered, but so were standards.
Fortunately some bits of history remain. Eight foot high doors lean against the walls, along with a few of the original windows. Original wallpaper clings to the walls, harking back to the days when Greek columns and statues of females goddesses were a popular decorating theme. On the 14-foot high ceilings, elaborate borders and ceiling papers show how opulent the rooms must have been when kerosene chandeliers and huge wood stoves provided winter warmth.

The third phase will be the top floor, which holds the structure's greatest treasure. There, wall murals adorn each of the walls, depicting the moving sun and golden stars overhead. The scenes which cover much of the walls and ceilings are rich in Masonic symbolism. Tall doors have small panels which were raised for the ritual admission into the group's private chamber....
Like Freemasonry itself, parts of the building have been vandalized.
Portions of the murals have been damaged by vandals, with certain symbols painted over by the Masons when they made their move. The mural symbols that remain include golden crosses on the ceiling, an image of a master mason welcoming his brothers, and mountains and forests that show the glory of nature — and of God.
Salim Mohammad has purchased the temple, built in the 1860s and abandoned as a lodge in 1911, and may spend up to a million dollars renovating it. He plans to rent out space to non-profit community-oriented agencies. One of the groups who will be in the building is the Teen Center, an outreach of High Expectations, a civic group that has taken on the task of providing activities and support for young people aged pre-teen to 21.

We wish Mr. Mohammad well in his restoration of this noble landmark. Let it be a symbol of our own personal and Masonic restorations.

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