With renovation deemed too highly-priced, historic Des Moines Masonic building established to be demolished

Ashley S. Crofoot

DES MOINES — A palatial setting up overlooking the h2o in Des Moines, the Landmark on the Sound served for a long time as a retirement dwelling for Freemasons. In its closing yrs of use, the Masonic constructing became an event location in which couples exchanged vows underneath ornate chandeliers. […]

DES MOINES — A palatial setting up overlooking the h2o in Des Moines, the Landmark on the Sound served for a long time as a retirement dwelling for Freemasons. In its closing yrs of use, the Masonic constructing became an event location in which couples exchanged vows underneath ornate chandeliers.

Now, the construction that resembles a stately old resort awaits demolition: Even though certain ideas keep on being unclear, the house was offered very last yr and demolition permits have been filed.

Created in 1926, the 1,319,850-square-foot campus on Maritime Watch Travel South desired updates to its electrical, mechanical and plumbing units, as properly as renovations for seismic basic safety, all of which ended up value-prohibitive for the Freemasons. Required upgrades ended up approximated to charge about $40 million, reported Clint Brown Jr, grand secretary of Masons in Washington.

These days, graffiti is plastered on the entrance pillars, and a security fence wrapped in ivy helps prevent guests from getting into the grounds.

“The constructing, even though in disrepair, is an legendary architectural image in our City and region,” stated Susan Cezar, Main Strategic Officer of the Metropolis of Des Moines.

Its record

The world’s oldest and biggest fraternal business, Freemasonry at first commenced as a guild for stonemasons in the course of the Center Ages in Europe and ongoing as a social team. Now, Masons are typically known for their signature lodges, which arrived at a heyday in development among 1900 and 1940, according to the Masons in Washington.

But the Landmark on the Audio was one of a kind. When most of the state’s Masonic buildings have been intended as lodges, the Des Moines structure was the second-oldest retirement residence for Freemasons in Washington, subsequent the very first a person created in Puyallup. There are now 157 Masonic lodges in Washington, said Brown, and in excess of 100 of all those are nevertheless owned by Masons. Some structures host numerous lodges, or Masonic groups.   

At the Landmark on the Seem, residents of the retirement property would assign all of their property to the Freemasons in exchange for lifelong care. The previous man or woman on these types of a program was cared for until finally her demise various months in the past, reported Chris Coffman, grand master of Masons in Washington. One more solution for people involved monthly rental payments. When the retirement house was closed in 2006 due to the fact of its outdated services —  for illustration, the main elevator could not in shape a stretcher if healthcare assistance was essential — the remaining residents had been placed in other housing.

“A large amount of people today experienced close psychological ties [to it],” said Coffman. He just lately been given a letter from the daughter of two residents of the retirement home who shared how substantially she loved browsing the building. Soon after the last resident still left the retirement house, it served as an party heart for quite a few yrs, and has sat vacant for about a 10 years. “One of the toughest issues we had to do was to provide it,” Coffman additional.

The Freemasons bought the home in August 2019 to EPC Holdings LLC for $11.5 million, and it’s now owned by Zenith Houses LLC. The building is not at the moment listed as a King County, state or nationwide landmark, in accordance to Cezar from the Metropolis of Des Moines, and it was marketed without the need of any pushback from regional residents.

The Masons submitted an software for a demolition permit in July 2019 as section of the sale. The metropolis is at the moment ready for extra products from the present owners right after they resubmitted the demolition allow software in September 2020.  

A future stage of the procedure will consist of an environmental evaluate by the city underneath the Point out Environmental Plan Act. “This residence is significant in the Des Moines group,” stated Cezar, incorporating that authorities organizations and area citizens will have an opportunity to share community remarks as section of the evaluation system.

Although a lot of Masonic structures are becoming transformed throughout the place — some even turning into film theaters, these kinds of as the SIFF Cinema Egyptian Theatre in Seattle’s Capitol Hill and the Ark Lodge Cinemas in Seattle’s Columbia Metropolis community — Coffman said that most of Washington’s constructions keep on being in great situation. Many of the Masonic structures continue on to provide their first function as conference areas for the organization, and some components of the buildings are rented out to churches or merchants to assist defray expenses.

Even though they have not finalized the particulars of their strategies, the present-day residence homeowners have expressed desire in continuing its legacy as a location for persons to occur collectively.

 “Zenith Attributes is at the moment performing with the Metropolis on what helps make feeling and what the possibility may perhaps be, a person of which would be to generate a dwelling asset in the community for generations to arrive,” said a spokesperson for Zenith Houses. “We are searching forward to functioning collectively with the City on developing a outstanding area.”

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