One of Jacksonville’s oldest fraternal organizations has announced the sale of their historic building.
The Jacksonville Masonic Center at 345 West College Avenue is going up for auction. The building will be sold through an online auction by Cory Craig Auction Service of Taylorville. The auction will take place from April 1st through April 30th. There will be no reserve price on the sale.
The Harmony Masonic Lodge #3 and Zingabad Grotto have been in the building since October 1935. Grand Secretary of the Illinois Grand Lodge and a member of the local Harmony lodge, Frank Cline says that money and membership has driven the sale of the building. “It is becoming a financial burden on the lodge. There was a time we had 1,200 members. Now, we’ve got 250. We had 10 renters in the building at one time. Now, we have 2. It’s a very beautiful, old Art Decco style building. We just can’t keep up with the maintenance on the building, so we thought it was time to move on and let somebody buy it that can afford to take care of it the way it should be.”
Cline says that the Harmony Lodge and Zingabad Grotto would like to work out a way to stay in the building with the new owners if possible. “In the best case scenario, whoever buys the building may rent it to us for awhile or rent us one floor if they know what they are going to do with it before deciding to move forward. We would like to talk to them about renting a portion of it. If not, we would be moved out in 30 days. It doesn’t take much, as far as a room, for us to meet as a Masonic Lodge. Our biggest concern is with the Grotto concession bus and that season coming up. Finding storage for the materials, cups, and food and stuff pertaining to the Grotto [Bus] is needed. We want to keep that in place and supporting the charities in Jacksonville. That’s our biggest concern moving forward.”
Cline says that the building has held some significance for local organizations in the past. The Woodhaven hospice held the annual Festival of Trees in the building prior to the festival being moved to Pathway Services. Cline says the lodge went through some early struggles when the building was being built during the Great Depression in the early 1930s. “They had just started building the building, and all of the money was in the Ayers Bank during the Depression at the time the bank closed. All of the financing and another $80,000 had to be raised during the Depression to finish the building. The Art Decco structure is what makes it more historically significant, but it was really used by several other organizations over the years as a meeting place before some of the churches expanded and some of the nonprofits got their own buildings. There have been a lot of events held there over the years.”
The Harmony Masonic Lodge has connections to Jacksonville that date back to 1825 and was one of the founding lodges when the current Grand Lodge of Illinois was chartered in 1840 after being closed in 1827.
The Lodge has moved several times throughout its history. It was where the Farmer’s Bank parking lot is today, and hosted the meeting in 1840 to charter the current Grand Lodge when it was located in the old “McCoy Building” that stood at what is now the parking lot next to Mulligans. The Lodge also met on the third floor of a building where the School Apartments now stand, in the Dr. J.T. Cassell building on the west side of the square, in the Broadwell Building on South Main St. (All Occasions Flowers building), and in the “Gallaher’s Block” (West State next to the Jacksonville Journal Courier Building) all in year’s past.
To learn more about the specifications of the building in its current form or to get more information about the online auction visit corycraig.com.