Looming over downtown Wellington ever since 1909, the old, battered structure started its slow-motion death spiral last Wednesday morning.
The old Masonic Lodge Building, located at 107 W. Lincoln, began to be taken apart by demolition crews. It will be a slow process as they methodically bring the building down, brick by brick. Bradburn Wrecking Company already removed the majority of windows with asbestos caulking. There were a few items salvaged, one of which were the transom windows on the front that were removed.
As citizens of Wellington know, there is fencing up around the northwest corner of Washington and Lincoln while the work is being done, which according to City Manager Shane Shields, will take “anywhere from 60-90 days, depending on what is found inside.” Shields also confirms that “the Masonic symbol located near the top of the building, as well as the cornerstone, will be salvaged and handed over to the local Masons for safekeeping.”
What follows is taken from the report filed with the Kansas State Historical Society in 2002, when paperwork was filed to gain the building status on the state historic registry.
The Masonic Lodge Building was a three story, red brick structure done in an eclectic early 20th century commercial style. Decorative brick corbeling embellished the building’s window and door surround. A wide pressed metal eave supported by large brackets punctuated the building’s roofline. A brick parapet containing the Masonic emblem rose above the eaves.
The lodge was actually a combination of two buildings. A late nineteenth century, two-story brick building that stood on the southern section of the lot was incorporated into the new building. Large iron columns placed at intervals of sixteen feet and seven inches were inserted along the south wall to provide structural support as the new building was built around the old. The roof had seven trusses and drainpipe. The building had only a partial basement measuring 19 X 136 feet, with one outside entrance located on the southeast floor.
The building retained its storefront configuration on the first floor. Half of the amethyst/prison glass facades located above the plate glass windows were still present. Fenestration on the second and third floors were composed of fifty-six 1/1 double hung sash windows arranged in single and double formation. The third floor windows were surmounted with transoms.
The original architecture ornamentation was still in place. There were “galvanized iron cornices above the first floor and surmounting the third story.” (The Monitor Place. Jan. 27, 1909) The Masons placed a large emblem depicting the Masonic symbol located under the third floor crown facade located on the east side. Also designating this building as a Masonic Temple was a large red marble cornerstone on the southeast corner. The cornerstone identified the original use of the building as a Royal Arch Masonic Lodge including the Knights Templar division.
The building’s main entrance was located on Lincoln Avenue. The foyer contained the original woodwork, the main staircase light with the original chandelier and original elevator by Montgomery. The elevator provided access from the basement to the third floor and had been repaired within the past twenty years. Lessors and their clients used it for daily transport.
The ground floor was designed to contain five gracious store/office areas for lease. “The second floor was designed as ‘office rooms’ totaling 14, though arranged to be suites. This floor was transected by a large hallway that ran from east to west, ” (The Monitor Press. Jan. 27, 1909) and light with original light fixtures. This floor utilized electricity and natural gas for lighting.
The third floor contained two complete lodge rooms, each with its outer chamber, robing and paraphernalia rooms. The west hall also served as a banquet room and had an attached kitchen. This floor also contained two bathrooms. (The Monitor Press, Jan. 27, 1909) Due to many years of deferred building maintenance, this floor failed to meet building and occupancy codes until 1999; consequently this floor retained much of its original interior: woodwork, lights, ceiling fans and controls, and kitchen cabinets and sink.
The most recent owners purchased the Masonic Lodge in 1999. Since that time, primary repairs had been made to the infrastructure. A new roof and drainage system had been installed, ADA concerns had been addressed, and the original iron fire escape had been repaired. All fifty-six exterior windows required repair, caulking, or painting. Old sinks needed resurfacing and plumbing and electrical systems needed to be updated to meet modern expectations and regulations. Large areas of brick needed to be tuck-pointed. These were the things that needed to be done back in 2002.
We spoke with Steven La Force, who did extensive work on both the interior and exterior of the old building. He was hired by the former owner Jan Paffendorf-Spevak not long before the roof collapse.
He first noticed trouble with the exterior work when he rebuilt a window turn piece and saw how rotten parts of the building had become. He also noticed it when he repaired boards higher up. Steven blames “earthquake damage” from all the recent seismic activity. He says despite the health problems Jan had, she still “did a pretty good job keeping the building up like she did. She and Richard tried.”
Unfortunately, with the ceiling collapse that occurred on the third floor in 2016, causing extensive damage to Jan’s living room and kitchen, the building was pretty much “a lost cause,” Steven says.
It was quite a building, Steven recalls. It still had its “original floor. The design and art work were mind-blowing because it was original.” The elevator was still original, but had been rebuilt after Jan purchased the building.
Steven has mixed feelings about the building coming down. He wishes so many pieces inside could be salvaged. The elevator was still in good shape. He had greased it when he worked inside. Still, he is happy for the Regent Theater, just down the street, as eventually Lincoln Street will re-open once demolition is completed sometime in April.