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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Madison Loses Tree; Masons Still Standing!

A moment, dear friends, for the passing of a tree:

On this glorious spring day, we lose one of our woody friends, the tree that stood by the northeast corner of the Masonic temple at the heart of our fair city. As part of the city's planned alley renovation, the Madison Arborcare crew was dispatched by our leaders to fell the tree.

It was not the biggest or oldest tree in town. It was a bit scraggly. Its branches grew too close to the east wall and roof.

But it was a tree... and I take the passing of no tree lightly. Take a tree down, plant a new one to replace it... I should go get a sapling or three, restore the cosmic balance.

Some small condolence: the opportunity to watch cool machines at work! Look at that crane—sitting down, pulling levers... that's sure not how Dad had me load wood when I was little!

More satisfying for all will be the replacement of all those overhead wires and the big poles and transformer with underground equipment. Our first downtown block will look a little cleaner.

Now if we could just shore up and spiff up that Masonic temple. Hmm... ;-)


  1. I remember the hue and cry that went up when the two big fir trees in front of the building were removed. I'm sure this one suffered a quieter death.

  2. I'm all for saving history, but if you haven't been inside the Masonic Temple building lately, there is tremendous water damage and deterioration. It is not handicap-accessible (although it does have a small elevator). Perhaps some buildings have lived their useful life and would serve the community better if removed and replaced with something usable.

  3. I think it would be a pity if Madison were to get rid of the Masonic Temple. There are so few buildings in the town with any architectural interest or history. Fix the damage and make it better ADA compliant.

  4. Rod, I was inside three years ago when it was up for sale. I was inside a couple weeks ago with an architect who said the building needs work but still has plenty of life in it... if we care enough to do the work. The Masonic temple can be made usbale... and it will have more beauty, character, and history than any crackerbox new construction we might erect in its place. The center of town is no place for just another building.

    And actually, as a building on the national historic register, the temple does not have to be brought into complete ADA compliance. It should be, and over time that's a good goal, but the law would allow an enterprising developer to focus right now on basic restoration.

  5. Rod, have you seen the before
    and after photos of the restoration at the former School for the Blind in Gary? The damage in the Mason's looks like a single cracked window in comparison. But, you know, if we want to keep letting the towns around Madison come up with all the good ideas...

  6. Ok, Cory and Erin; I'll bite. Is the building still for sale?

  7. Erin, the AFTER link is not working. Want to see, want to see.

  8. John, the complex at Gary is superlative. The drive alone is spectacular right now. Please go look.

  9. John, try these current pics of Gary's Buffalo Ridge Resort at the Gary SD site and the resort's photo tour

  10. Oh! And Larry, yes, according to the LAIC, the building is for sale.

  11. Nice. If Gary can do it, Madison can!

  12. Larry,

    According to the owners, the building is not for sale. The LAIC listing is an old one; it's from before the current owners purchased it.

  13. Curious, what happened to the Masons in Madison? When did they sell the building? Anyone know?

  14. The pics of Gary, SD were impressive. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I remember those evergreens. They covered a big part of the building which added to the aura, at least for a 6 year old. I was just dying to know what went on in there. It was the grandest building in town but ya never saw anyone go in. My parents made it worse by saying it was a secret organization.

    Our historical society wrote a very interesting history on the local Masons and the building. There might be a link somewhere?

  16. Link: "Built to Last Forever," Dale Nighbert's history of the building.

  17. Again, thanks for sharing! Great info on the Masons. I too recall hearing stories about the secret organization. Great memories of summer nights as a kid peaking in the windows with friends to see if we could see anything going on.

  18. Cory:

    The Masons are an eerie lot. If the building represents some nefarious past, should it survive?

  19. Larry,

    You are totally off the mark. Here's my understanding from an Odd Fellow.

    Masons have a positive history. Long ago (long long ago), Free Masons were allowed to travel because they had a valuable skill that benefited the country, a time civilization was tightly controlled. Unskilled labor had no such liberties but still developed a group (Odd Fellows) to benefit their members.

    Much later, both simply developed in to fraternal organizations that enriched their community in countless ways (came to the colonies), provided nursing homes, burial services, and assistance to surviving family before our modern government accepted that role.

    Yes, they had rituals, none of which were contrary to God or Country.

    The Odd Fellows have changed their mission and offer student scholarships. Masons have their own endeavors (medical philanthropy).

    Countless people from history we respect were either or both Masons or Odd Fellows.

  20. Thank you for setting me straight, John. Too many of the historic service clubs have some exclusionary or racist underbelly.

    Have you looked into this property?

  21. Larry . You are right. The Masons have their share of of exclusionary rules, but the paranoia about them stems from once secret rituals that they have. Some very notable people in American history were masons. George Washington for one.


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