Victorian Italianate FeaturesConstructed in 1893-94, the Masonic Temple is a rectangular three-story red brick building with extensive sandstone trim. It is located at the northeast corner of North Holden and East Market Streets, adjacent to the public square in downtown Warrensburg.
The building occupies an important position opposite the Johnson County Courthouse. Designed for a commercial function as well as a meeting hall for local Masonic organizations, the Victorian Italianate-style was essentially a loose interpretation of Italian architecture. Stylistic elements present in the Masonic Temple include:
a heavily bracketed cornice,
and tall, round-headed windows with elaborate surrounds.
Currently, the Masonic Temple has four entrances with individual addresses on its two public facades: 101 an 103 East Market Street (south elevation) and 301 and 303 North Holden Street (west elevation.)
The storefront portion of the large, extreme western bay on East Market also contains a large area of brick infill. Originally, first floor storefronts on East Market and North Holden were probably brick less except for this section which is depicted in an artist's drawing published two years after completion of the building. Also within this bay, modern wood sheathing covers a transom, part of a display window and a lower panel with decorative vertical strips. The windowed area is adjacent to the corner pier.
No historic material is present in the North Holden storefronts. Typical of Victorian Italianate buildings of the period, these storefronts originally featured recessed central entrances with canted sides, double-leaf doors fluted cast iron columns with capitals, flanking display windows with large transoms, and low bulkheads. On the west facade, the overhaul including removing the the cast iron and filling the transom area with panels of prism glass. (The identical storefronts surrounding the main entrance on the south side are restored.)
In circa 1980, central entrances were replaced with the present off-center configuration of single recessed doors flanking the middle sandstone pier. Both entrances are skewed to align with the east-west interior wall that divides the first and second floors into halves. Transom and lower panel areas are covered with modern wood sheathing, various panels of which contain closely spaced vertical strips with beveled ends. Thresholds consist of non/original bricks set flush with the sidewalk in the north storefront and of square tiles in the south.
The primary entrance is flanked by identical cast iron storefronts. (I checked this with a magnet. It's true. The south storefronts are framed in iron and the west storefronts are framed in wood.)
Piers and Windows
<---Smooth-dressed shouldered plaster extension attached to a brick mullion.
<--Brick mullion between two windows.
<--entablature (the smooth sandstone frame around the window)
<---volute (the scroll form at the end of the molded sandstone)
Smooth sandstone bases are chambered similar to those on the outer edges of second floor window groups. Each group rests on a continuous projecting sandstone lugsill. Outer bases of the end windows are cantered to align with the recessed mullions and shed water. Lugsills, also recessed, are sandstone. The upper edge of the pressed metal stringcourse is directly below the base/lugsill line.
The round arch above the portal consists of radiating voussoirs (a wedge-shaped stone. Each unit in an arch is a voussoir.) with a projecting keystone.
Above is one of the two large curvilinear brackets that spring from midpoint capitals (not shown) to support larger denticulated capitals, a narrow architrave and a three-part frieze with a molded cornice and coping. Panels in the bracket fronts contain a form of reeding.
On the north, the Masonic Temple shares a common wall for two stories with a slightly older (circa 1890) brick and stone building. Above this, the Masonic Temple's brick third floor wall is windowless and has been stuccoed.
Sandstone is used only for lugsills, which are plain. Window openings vary, however. A one-story concrete block addition, circa 1956, contains two restrooms and storage space. The four third floor windows have round arches consisting of three courses of headers set flush.
The second window north of East Market is blind; at lodge ceremonies, the Master Mason sat on the other side of it, facing west. The second floor has five window openings with segmental arches, including the doorway conversion. The ground floor originally had a transomed single-leaf entrance flanked by transomed segmentally-arched windows, plus another transomed window The former doorway transom (the third opening north of East Market) has been sealed with brick infill.
Between the first and second floors, a denticulated (looks like teeth) metal stringcourse is a continuation of the denticulated sandstone architrave above the primary entrance.
The piers-brick above the stringcourse, sandstone below-are continued in a parapet topped with a stone coping. The parapet and coping have been stuccoed. Below the parapet, a metal cornice with closely spaced curvilinear brackets and a denticulated lower edge continues around the west facade and wraps for a few feet into the north and east facades. An otherwise plain frieze between the cornice and recessed bays carries a corbeled brickwork stringcourse.
The pressed bricks used on the public facades are laid in stretcher bond with precise, narrow joints. Bricks in the east wall are laid in Common bond. Most of the exposed gray sandstone has acquired a tan patina.
Faintly visible in the cornerstone is the Masonic date, A.L. 5893.
How the Masonic Temple's north wall interlocks with an adjacent older building is clearly visible in this facade.
The original plan provided for three stores on the first floor, eight offices on the second and lodge rooms- a large main hall with, on the west end, reception rooms and an anteroom- on the third. The largest first floor store (50 feet by 22 feet) occupied the entire north half and had entrances at both ends. The primary entrance with display windows was on North Holden. The second largest store (49 feet by 21 feet), which became a bank early in the building's history was in the southwest portion between the North Holden facade and a load bearing wall west of the lobby. Entrances were on North Holden and on East Market west of the building's main entrance. The smallest store (19 feet by 20 feet) was in the southeast corner and had an entrance on East Market. This store had a vault, which is intact, as did the former bank. Maze like non original partition walls and lowered ceilings added to various reworkings of the interior were removed in the late 1990s on all three floors for rehabilitation, probably exposing more of the original structure than had been seen since before World War II.
|1907 Sanborn Map Holden at Market St. Warrensburg, MO|
Spacious first floor rooms have tall archways.
Two archways and four square window openings are in load bearing walls on the second floor. Second floor archways are in the central wall and in the wall between the staircase landing and southeast room. The four window openings are in load bearing walls on the second floor. Second floor archways are in the central wall and in the wall between the staircase landing and southeast room.
The second floor ceiling is plaster over lath strips. The first and third floors have 14 foot ceilings. The second floor has a 12 foot ceiling. Where layers of carpeting, tile and other material added over the years have been removed, pine flooring has been revealed.
The four window openings are in the central wall- three in the room above the buildings primary entrance and one at the staircase landing. Not counting additional inches of plaster, these load bearing wall are approximately 16 inches thick on the first floor and 13 inches thick on the second. Some original partition walls are present on the upper floors.
Inside the primary entrance, a small lobby contains the lower landing of the building's original three-flight oak staircase and an elevator, installed in 1981, that accesses all three levels. First floor areas are not accessible from the lobby. The staircase occupies a rectangular space and includes two corner landings.
Slabs of polished marble serve as interior window sills on the second and third floors. Since casings were not used, window openings on these floors are flush with the plastered wall surfaces.
Some old mill work remains, such as that framing the primary entrance and fanlight opening, but most has been removed. Mosaic thresholds uncovered in the west facade probably date from the 1920s.
Architectural plans for the Masonic Temple were prepared by William S. Matthews and Lewis L. Sanderders (aka Saunders),of Kansas City. For their services, Matthews and Sanders received $305 (after the Masonic Temple Association deducted a $20 penalty because the architects failed to provide an estimated cost of materials). Despite a national depression in 1893, construction flourished in Warrensburg. Also, many commercial buildings and private residences were initially wired for electricity at about this time. the Masonic Temple included.
The Masonic Temple was constructed in slightly more than a year, from June 1893 through June 1894. However the basic building was completed by October 1893. It cost $20,720, including $4,500 for the lots. The basic building, including labor, cost approximately $10,050. Among other things, the remaining $6170 for sandstone sawed to order,, $438 for a tin roof with ventilators, $340 for a bracketed metal cornice, $252 for two vaults, $325 for plastering, $288 for painting, and $75 for electric wiring.
The project foreman was N. Johnson, a local carpenter who was paid $3 per day for his services. Few Masons actually worked in stone or brick by the 1890s, but numerous stone and brick masons lived in Warrensburg during this period; several of them undoubtedly worked on the project as day laborers. At least two of the stone cutters came from Kansas City. Johnson's services apparently were dispensed with in November 1893 after the basic structure was completed. Building committee member Bosaker, a Warrensburg builder and lumber dealer who had been supplying construction material, probably replaced Johnson as foreman. The extent of direct involvement by members of Lodge No. 265 is unknown, but some labor was probably donated.
Sandstone used in the impressive main entrance and elsewhere in the building was provided by Erath and Thym, who operated a local saw mill. Erath and Thym's bid for furnishing sandstone sawed to order was $2,500. According to the Masonic Temple Association Minutes, however, the firm was paid only $1,880, possibly indicating that less sandstone was used in the building than originally planned. The sandstone undoubtedly came from either the Bruce or Pickel Bros. quarries north of Warrensburg. Both quarries were in operation at this time. The extensive use of sandstone trim in the Masonic Temple makes it very much a Warrensburg building.
Other contracts were awarded to the Hubbard Planing Mill for providing wood frame members; W.F. Vaden for plastering interior walls: and Ol Miller for painting and decorating. Vaden apparently either subcontracted the plastering job or was joined or replaced by WR. Hawkins.
Although the Masonic Temple is nearly twice as long on its east-west axis (92 feet) as on its north-south axis (48 feet), the plan is not a perfect rectangle. Like other commercial buildings on the east side of North Holden from East Gay Street through East Pine Street, the Masonic Temple is slightly trapezoidal with parallel east and west walls. North and south walls are skewed approximately five degrees to align with the previously constructed north building with which it shares a common wall.
The trapezoidal configuration also aligns the building with East Market, one of four similarly angled streets in downtown Warrensburg. (East Market, East Culton and East Pine.) When Benjamin W Grover platted his addition east of Holden Street, East Gay Street was angled southward to avoid a log house erected by Martin Warren, an early settler after whom Warrensburg was named, then owned by Grover.
The building's shallow foundation rests on a sandstone deposit that begins just below ground level. Solid masonry walls rise three stories, terminating in a stuccoed brick parapet which wraps around the west and south elevations. Rafters are supported by a bridge like truss system involving upper and lower cross beams with inclined end beams, supported by diagonal members inserted in notches. The resulting roof has a moderately truncated hip with a large rectangular deck. The roof is metal with a synthetic rubberized surface. A large brick chimney protrudes above the northeast corner. A basement with sandstone block walls is under the east quarter of the building. Here steel I-beams provide support for the building's central load bearing brick wall. Except for a narrow crawl way, clearance between the bedrock and floor joists averages a foot or less. The empty basement originally contained boilers for a steam heating system.
As the hardships of pioneer days dwindled, social development became an important part of everyday life in progressive towns and villages across Missouri. With more time available, fraternal organizations and various other social groups could develop and flourish. When Warrensburg's Masonic Temple was completed in 1894, the primary attractions of Masonry were probably sociability, brotherhood, relief in times of distress (Masons had long been known for taking care of their own, including distressed families and orphans) and possible financial and political advantages from being associated with influential members of the community. Prominent members of Lodge No. 265 in the 1890s included William P. Hunt, a banker and presiding judge of the Johnson County Court; William E. Crissey, who ran an abstract and title company and was president of the Warrensburg school board; Jehu H. Smith, who operated a feed store and was a former mayor of Warrensburg; Charles A. Shepard, who ran a mercantile store soon to occupy most of the first floor of the Masonic Temple; George W. Patten, who operated a farm implement business and founded a local abstract company; J. H. Christopher, developer of Pertle Springs and the Estes Hotel; Frank B. Fulkerson, a lawyer soon to be elected county prosecuting attorney; A. H. Gilkeson, who ran a dry goods store; L. M. Berry, a Baptist minister; and many others of high standing in the community who could presumably be counted on to assist an aspiring newcomer.
Fraternal organizations were active in Warrensburg since early in the town's history. Predating the organization of most local churches, not to mention other social groups, Johnson County's first Masonic lodge - Johnson Lodge No 85 was organized in Warrensburg on April 13, 1846. Warrensburg had been platted only ten years earlier in 1836. For a meeting hall, Lodge No. 85 used the second floor of a brick building on Main Street. This was a prominent location in the original settlement of Warrensburg, before the business center shifted eastward when the Missouri Pacific Railroad came through the area in the mid-1850s. The first floor doubled as a public school and religious meeting house. Lodge No. 85 disbanded at the start of the Civil War, however, and their building was eventually demolished.
Shortly after the Civil War, two new Masonic lodges were organized in Warrensburg in successive years. The first was Warrensburg Lodge No. 135, organized October 19, 1867. The second, ostensibly formed because Lodge No. 135 denied admittance to several would-be Masons, was Corinthian Lodge No. 265, which remains active today. The first officers of Lodge No. 265 were George R. Hunt, who had been a member of the original Warrensburg lodge, Worshipful Master. J.A. McSpadden, Senior Warden, and A.J.V. Wadell, Junior Warden." Thirteen times through 1886, Hunt served as master of Lodge No. 65 and later was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri.
Like the earlier lodges, Lodge No. 265 was a Blue Lodge, the basic unit of Masonry. Upon achieving the rank of Master Mason in a Blue Lodge, members could join axillary, supposedly more elite Masonic organizations such as York Rite or Scottish Rite. The York Rite branch was active in Warrensburg with two chapters: Mary Commendary, Knights Templar No. 19 (organized in 1872) and De Molay Chapter No. 26, Royal Arch Masons (chartered in 1867.) When the Masonic Temple was constructed, these smaller more exclusive units of Masonry shared third floor space with the Blue Lodge. For several years prior to construction of the Masonic Temple, these groups rented the mansard third floor of a commercial building on the northwest corner of North Holden and West Culton. Although extant, this earlier building has lost integrity and apparently was not constructed for lodge purposes.
Even before the Masonic Temple was built, Warrensburg's Lodge No. 265 was one of the largest lodges in west central Missouri. In 1890, four years before completion of the Masonic Temple, Lodge No 265 had 104 members representing 2.2 per cent of the city's total population. While this was a growth period for Masonry, the construction of a new and prestigious temple undoubtedly added to its appeal locally. By 1900, Lodge No. 265 had 126 members an increase of approximately 21 per cent and representing 2.7 per cent of Warrensburg's population. In 1900, Warrensburg Chapter No 3 of the Order of Eastern Star- for female relatives of Masons was formed. Masonry's popularity continued in the early 20th century, with greater emphasis placed on social activities and less on ritual and religion in response to changing times. Growth of the lodge continued through the 1920s, numerically as well as by percentage of the city population.
On August 22. 1893, Masons from throughout Johnson County came to Warrensburg for the cornerstone ceremony. According to the Warrensburg Standard Herald, "The weather was fine and large numbers of people from the county came in. Holden, Centerview, and Knob Noster sent large delegations. At 10 o'clock the procession, headed by Day's Comet Band, marched to the corner of Holden and Market streets, where the structure is in progress of erection. The ceremonies were conducted by Worshipful Grand Master B. H. Ingram of Sedalia. After the stone was laid the Masons, their wives and families repaired to Pertle Springs, where they are spending the day. Pertle Springs, a popular local resort with lakes, woods, and picnic ares was developed by J. H. Christopher, a Mason."
Eleven months later, on July 17, 1894, the Masonic Temple was formally dedicated with typically ritualistic sacred overtones: "Tuesday was Masonic Day in this city and the craft, according to ancient usage, dedicated their magnificent home to Freemasonry, virtue and universal benevolence." Following a song by the Elk Quartet from nearby Sedalia, Past Grand Master B.H. Ingram "selected a body of Masons to assist him in the work. As they marched around the large hall the Sedalia quartet sang a beautiful hymn and when they reached the alter Mr. Ingram called them to a halt and poured upon the alter the "corn" which signified the dedication of the hall to Freemasonry, and the march was taken around the room until the alter was again reached and then the "wine," which indicates virtue, was poured upon the alter. They marched around the room for the third time, and the "oil" which represents universal benevolence, was poured upon the alter. P. G. Master Ingram then asked for the benediction which was pronounced by Rev. Finis King, Grand Chaplain."
After the ceremony, "the brethren repaired to Pertle Springs, where a bounteous spread had been prepared by the wives and daughters of resident Masons. The banquet was given in the restaurant building near the auditorium, and 150 people could be seated. Over 300 regaled themselves at the feast, and the menu perhaps was the finest ever spread at Pertle Springs." Later that afternoon, the brethren assembled in the auditorium for an address on the subject of Freemasonry by Rev. Xenophan Ryland, of Lexington, whose remarks were described as "eloquent and masterly."
Standing three full stories and with a monumental arched entrance, Warrensburg's Masonic Temple was clearly a source of pride for the entire community, not just Masons. The local press described it as "an imposing structure built of hard pressed brick, a model in architecture and a credit to the enterprise and pluck of the parties who were instrumental in its construction.
The massive entrance was described as "magnificent." Certainly no fraternal lodge in Johnson County had anything comparable. With its Victorian Italianate styling and extensive use of decorative sandstone trim, it was perhaps the most ornate of Masonic buildings constructed in the Show-Me Region. The Masonic Temple was the largest building on Warrensburg's public square until the present Johnson County Courthouse was completed in 1898. Like most other Masonic meeting halls of the period, the Masonic Temple consisted of multiple stories so the members could have an entire upper floor for conducting ceremonies with the necessary privacy. Plus by collecting rent from the building's commercial tenants as well as from the Masons, the Masonic Temple Association was able to maintain the building and gradually recoup construction costs.
Initially, Lodge No. 265 and other local Masonic organizations paid $25 monthly.
The third floor lodge rooms were opulent, particularly the meeting hall which occupied much of the space: "When you step into the Masonic hall, you are surrounded with luxurious furnishing that would befit a king. The walls are richly painted and suspended from the ceiling are numerous incandescent lights. The furniture is elaborate in the extreme, and the carpet which covers the main hall, ante room, reception rooms, and the room where the 'royal bumper lives is Moquet that does honor to the members of Corinthian Lodge No. 265 and credit to His royal Highness the 'bumper'.'' The hall could be spacious because there was no need for load-bearing walls on the third floor. At some point the lodge began using part of the second floor as well, constructing a kitchen and dining room in the east portion.
Charles A. Shepard and Other Early Businesses
Although not a director, Mason Charles A. Shepard who later opened a dry goods store on the first floor of the Masonic Temple - was described as the moving spirit" in the building program. Although he was one of the first to rent commercial space for his dry goods store he was not one of the original occupants.
Original first floor tenants were J. W. Snoddy, a jeweler, occupying the large store on the southwest comer; Welch & Embree Boots & Shoes in the large north storeroom fronting on North Holden; and the H. J. Wall Abstract Co., in a smaller first floor room east of the main entrance on East Market. The large southwest store and the east store were equipped with vaults.
Original second floor tenants included Dr. J. D. Peak, a dentist; Dr. Z. Case, a physician; and an insurance company represented by _____ Schwartz. Second floor tenants could rent one room or a suite. Other early tenants of the Masonic Temple included Shepard's Dry Goods, (which replaced Welch & Embree in the north half before 1900), J. B. Clark Shoes & Boots, Everhart's Watches & Jewelry, the Missouri & Kansas Telephone Co., the American Bank, Dr. C. E. Jamison and Gilkeson's. The bank, organized in 1905, was in the southwest comer originally occupied by J. W. Snoddy and Evertiart's.
Constructed during a period when organizational activity swept America, the Masonic Temple is associated with the history of a local Masonic lodge Missouri's Corinthian Lodge No. 265, organized in 1868, and its ongoing efforts to promote the welfare of society through the reaffirmation of traditional values. For 87 years, the third floor of this large and ornate building served as a Masonic meeting hall where ideals of fellowship, charity and moral behavior-central to the Ancient, Free and Accepted Order of Freemasons-were discussed, charitable deeds were planned, and rituals of membership necessary to the order were carried out. The 1894-1948 period of significance reflects the decades when religion and ritual were emphasized as well as the secret fraternity's 20th century efforts to adapt to an increasingly secular society. Warrensburg's Masonic Temple also is significant because it successfully projects a strong image of permanency and stability, qualities that became particularly important to the order as lodges increasingly built their own temples in the late 19th century.
The lodge had 111 members in 1894. Occupying luxurious third floor rooms in the Masonic Temple, members of Corinthian Lodge No. 265 discussed and reinforced the tenets of Masonry in Warrensburg. Here also, ritualistic ceremonies were conducted by men dressed in strange garb, new members were initiated, complaints of non-masonic behavior by members were aired and resolved (suspensions or expulsions were possible), and various charities were considered and often approved. Presumably, the local Masons came away from their meetings with a renewed sense of purpose: "Good of the order was discussed in all its phases and all present retired to their homes not only better Masons but better men," said the Warrensburg Journal Democrat in reporting a meeting of Lodge No. 265. The degree of success these ostensibly "better men" enjoyed as role models in Warrensburg society as a result of being Masons is, of course, unknowable. The order's great reputation notwithstanding, it would be difficult to make a case that Masons influenced the cultural or even the physical development of Warrensburg more than any other well-meaning social group of long standing in the community, such as Odd Fellows.
Early Masonry's high standing in the community was bolstered by the press, which at times reported Masonic affairs in a manner bordering on reverence. In the 1890s, enthusiastic local supporters of Masonry included the editors of both Warrensburg newspapers, perhaps Masons themselves. The Journal-Democrat's awkwardly worded but heartfelt account of a reception for Masons and their families in the newly-completed lodge rooms was fairly typical: "The order has stood for centuries and which is today doing such a grand work, is still increasing in good works.....Everywhere in the hall last night were seen evidences of the secrets of that mystic brotherhood, but no one could penetrate the veil. Masonry is known by its principles and by its works; its accomplishments for the good of humanity are not secrets, and its work in a social way was seen and enjoyed last night by scores of people who can testify to its success. Long live the Masons!" Actually, the writer of the Journal-Democrat item probably was not a Mason because public promotion of this sort would have been considered bad form.
Since the Great Depression, however, Masonry has declined in spite of modernization efforts. Even the ceremony of laying cornerstones for new public building, long a Masonic tradition which among other things provided public exposure, has become increasingly rare. Ritualistic cornerstone-laying ceremonies gave Masons a direct, physical connection with many new public buildings. In certifying cornerstones as square, level and plumb, Masons were in effect certifying the buildings themselves as good and true. This activity not only kept alive their ancient image as stonemasons but provided free advertising, especially when the cornerstones featured Masonic symbols. Lodge No. 265 conducted a re-laying ceremony in the late 1990s after the original cornerstone in the Johnson County Courthouse was removed for access to a time capsule. But prior to that, the last cornerstone ceremony recalled by Past Master Robert Williams was for Ridgeview School in Warrensburg, in 1969.
If the decline of cornerstone ceremonies in recent decades reflects the overall decline of Masonry, its demise seems highly unlikely. Masonry has developed into more of a civic club than a ritualistic order. To maintain tax exempt status under present federal law, Masonic lodges today are required to direct much of their funding to charities outside of Masonry. For example, Lodge No. 265 in recent years has supported such activities as Adult Literacy, Survival (a local shelter for abused women), and needy individuals brought to the lodge's attention.
In 1980, some 87 years after construction of the Masonic Temple, Corinthian Lodge No. 265 (through the Masonic Temple Association) erected a new one-story building behind the local Wal-Mart. The old building was sold and has since been used strictly for commercial purposes.
|Masonic Temple on right, on the corner of E. Market and Holden St., Warrensburg, MO about 1960|
Warrensburg’s Masonic Temple is a dramatic building strongly evocative of its 1894-1948 period of significance. Because its 19th century exterior is essentially unaltered above the first floor, it exhibits a high level of integrity of design, setting, materials, workmanship and association. Still a powerful symbol of Masonic stability although no longer used as a lodge, the building remains a focus of Warrensburg's business community by virtue of its downtown location and solid construction. The Masonic Temple is a valuable local example of a 19th century Masonic meeting hall because it is sufficiently monumental to symbolize the desired attributes of wealth and strength.
Peggy Nuckles 2017