THE CRAWFORDSVILLE MASONIC TEMPLE
The charter was granted on May 27, 1844. 60 years later, the current building was dedicated. The Masonic Temple today is the third home of Montgomery Lodge #50. The first home was the second floor of a building they owned at the corner of Market and Washington Streets where the former Roselyn Bakery building, 130 N. Washington, once stood. The building and all records were destroyed by fire in 1857. The second home was the third floor of a building at 123-125 East Main Street about where the Dance by Deborah is now located. This quarter-block was destroyed by fire in the early 1930's.
The Masons are arguably the oldest community organization in Montgomery County. Isaac C. Elston, among others, began work on procuring a charter in 1843.
Preparations for building a Masonic Temple were started in the early 1890's. The Masonic Temple Association was formed in 1897, consisting of three members from each of the bodies: Blue Lodge, Chapter, Council, Commandry of the York Rite and Eastern Star. Around the year 1900 the northwest corner of Washington Street and Wabash Avenue, known as Park House corner, was purchased for $4,000.William Sharpe of Crawfordsville was the architect., Ben Myers and Nathaniel Swan, both members of Montgomery Lodge, were selected to lay the brick. The original cost of the building and grounds was $46,000. Furnishings were another $4,000.
The first brick was laid September 3, 1901. The corner stone was laid October 31, 1901. The guest speaker was Thomas G. Marshall, later to be governor of Indiana and then vice-president of the United States.
The Masonic Temple was dedicated on May 27, 1904. General Lew Wallace, one of the many notable members of the Lodge, also spoke and led a grand parade to celebrate the event.
The Temple is seventy feet by one hundred twenty-five feet and is fifty feet high. It is of Renaissance style of architecture, built of brick and oolitic stone and with a stone portico across the front.
The first floor was designed for social purposes exclusively. The main entrance consists of two sets of double doors. From the Washington Street entrance visitors find themselves in the Grand Hall with its intricate mosaic tiled floor and stately columns, but what draws the eye is a dark wooden double staircase leading to the second floor and a balcony. One is overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur of the architecture. On either side of the main hall are Reception Parlors with the same beauty and grandeur.
Near the rear of the Grand Entrance Hall is the Grand Staircase with its two branches rising to the mezzanine, with its balconies overlooking the two parlors and the Grand Banquet Hall.
In 1915 the lot just north of the Temple was purchased and the back wing was added; providing a new kitchen, more stage room and dressing rooms for the theater which is over the banquet hall, and extra storage rooms. The total cost of these improvements was shared by all bodies and came to $22,000.
The building has served not only the Masonic bodies, but also the city of Crawfordsville. Many banquets, receptions, proms, and even funerals have been held in its spacious halls. The theater served not only the Masons, but was also the home of the Crawfordsville Dramatic Club for 25 years. It has also been used by Wabash College and the high school on occasion. During both world wars the lower floors were opened to the Red Cross for war work, assisted by the ladies of Eastern Star. The reading rooms and other recreational areas were thrown open to all men in uniform. Here servicemen of all branches of the service enjoyed the wholesome hospitality of our organization.
The dignity of its architecture, beauty of its exterior, and its central location have made it an outstanding asset to the city of Crawfordsville for over 100 years.