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Masonic Temple

Built in 1913


Masonic Temple, c.1913-1920. Kalamazoo Valley Museum Collection, 2001.22.21

Kalamazoo’s venerable Masonic Temple sits at 309 N. Rose Street. The handsome, Italian-Renaissance-style building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Construction on the six-story temple began in 1913, and was the home for Masonic Lodge No. 22 from 1915 to 1963. The bid for construction was awarded to local contractor Henry L. Vander Horst. The cost of construction was reported to be $130,000. The architect chosen for the project was the Detroit firm of Spier & Rohn. Thousands attended the cornerstone laying and parade in June of 1913.

In November of 1914, as the entire building’s completion neared, the Kalamazoo Telegraph reported that the second floor auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1400, was officially open for events, and that a performance of “The Romancers” was to be the first. The third through sixth floors were dedicated to lodge rooms, and only accessible to masonic members. The auditoriums later became the setting of the first performances of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Over the years, a wide variety of events were held in the temple. During WWII, the building became the headquarters for the army’s local induction center, and after the war, the site of a reserve center.

“Everything that the latest scientific developments in building appointments and safety devices can give, has been installed in this new temple and the Masons have something of which they may feel justly proud to present to their fellow townsmen in this new building.”

–Kalamazoo Telegraph, 10 November 1914

By March of 1963, the eleven Masonic bodies which used the building met to decide whether to build a new building, or invest money in the renovation of the increasingly outdated temple. It was argued that it would cost between $100,000 to $250,000 to repair the building’s problems. On March 12th, the members voted unanimously to create a building fund that would be used for the purpose of finding a new location and for the construction of a brand new meeting place.

From Eve of Demolition to Rose Street Market

By 1985, the abandoned and dilapidated building was in dire need of saving and renovation.  Kalamazoo County had purchased the building ten years before, but failed to successfully repurpose the once majestic downtown structure. Despite the building’s sturdy structure, the wear and tear of time and unforgiving weather had not been kind to large portions of the structure. Many county commissioners were critical of the building and referred to it as an eyesore used primarily by pigeons and vandals. However, the temple had its supporters, including a local group of preservationists called the Heritage Committee, who advocated saving and rehabilitating the building.

“The seal of the Masons remains in its prominent place in the center of the lobby floor, surrounded by ceiling paint peelings on the mosaic tile. Most of the marble from the walls has been stripped away. Staircases are littered with fallen plaster and pigeon waste. Water leaks through the roof, causing extensive damage to walls on the top floors. A stray cat is seen darting among the empty seats of one of the three large auditoriums.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 19 May 1985

Despite its inclusion on the NRHP in 1980, there were no limits imposed upon the county on what they could do to the building, including demolishing it, and there were many who pushed for its razing. A vote of 7-6 by commissioners in favor of selling the property instead of demolition was crucial to the preservation of the temple. But in March 1985, the Arcadium Group, the developer who bid to buy the building for $100,000 admitted that their efforts to gather the proper financing had fallen through, and that they were no longer interested in buying the building from the county. Once again, the Masonic Temple was on its deathbed, being prepped for demolition. That is, until a developer from Oregon named Emile Mortier stepped in at the last second to buy the old building, rebranding it the “Rose Street Market.”

Other than an assortment of small business tenants and office and event space, the old temple was home to Just Good Food, one of Kalamazoo’s most beloved delis/cafes. They occupied the basement floor for nearly three decades, before departing in 2016, when plans for a boutique-style hotel were developed. A 106-room Hilton Garden Inn has occupied the building since 2020.

Masonic Temple, 2024. Photo: Ryan Gage

 

Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, May 2024

Sources

Articles

“Contract let yesterday morning for magnificent Mason’s home”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 14 January 1913

“New Masonic Temple will be opened on November 20”
Kalamazoo Telegraph, 10 November 1914

“Decision on Masonic Temple due”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 January 1963

“No more reprieves in sight for temple”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 April 1985

“Doomed temple stands solidly and massively after years of neglect”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 19 May 1985

“Masonic Temple gets new owner, new name”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 24 September 1985″

“Coming-out party for the old temple”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 15 May 1987


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Buildings – Kalamazoo – Rose, N., 309

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