Business, arts groups hope to transform Masonic Temple
'A rare opportunity'
From Staff Reports
LOCK HAVEN — It is said that people can do great things working together.
It is in that spirit that various local groups representing business, the arts, civic institutions and government are collaborating to try to transform one of downtown Lock Haven’s most iconic buildings into a cultural, business and performing arts center.
Members of the Free & Accepted Masons, Lodge 199, have agreed to gift the 1920-era Masonic Temple at the corner of Main and Grove streets to Downtown Lock Haven Inc. (DLH), a nonprofit representing businesses within the business district.
DLH, in turn, is collaborating with the Clinton County Arts Council (CCAC), the City of Lock Haven and others to gain funding for a feasibility study and market analysis to lay the foundation for the project, according to Steve Getz and Bob Rolley, who represent CCAC and DLH.
“One of the ultimate goals of Downtown Lock Haven and the Arts Council is to create opportunities to bring more residents and students — and importantly, visitors — into Lock Haven to shop, dine, tour, attend events and to simply get to know the area,” Getz said.
“This is a rare opportunity for the community but one that could be a game-changer for the city and county,” added Rolley, who serves as DLH board president. “We all should be grateful to the Masons for taking such great care of an exquisite building.”
The business group and Lodge 199 have entered into a sales option agreement. DLH has applied for a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to fund the study and analysis with help from a Municipal Assistant Program grant the city is seeking, led by City Planner Abigail Roberts.
It is hoped the grant is approved to hire architects and engineers to assess the structural health of the building, recommend how to preserve and renovate it for proper public access based on a market analysis into intended and the best uses of the property.
The Masonic Temple has stood tall in downtown Lock Haven for nearly 100 years as the home of the Masons.
The building, with its large pillars and neo-classical architecture, houses meetings rooms, restrooms, a kitchen, dining hall and social area on its first floor; the Mason’s large and elegant meeting room on the second floor; and a 200-seat performance area with a stage and kitchen, coat rooms and additional restrooms on the third floor.
Indeed, walking into the structure “is like walking back in time,” said Rolley.
But the Mason’s will not be moving out of the building.
Getz said during an announcement in January that the Masons will still use the building through a cooperative agreement, but they desire that it be used for and by the community.
Roberts and Downtown Lock Haven Inc. Manager Samantha Eisenhart have conducted several tours of the building.
Getz said that, among potential uses for the building are a video library, music and recording studios, technology-business incubator, office space, an artist in residence program, and a performing arts hall for winter theatre and music and other events.
While the building was constructed in the early 1920s, the origins of Lodge 199 in Lock Haven date back to the early 1800s.
A Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey of the state Bureau of Historic Preservation describes the building this way:
“It is a very symmetrical building of monumental proportion and is distinguishable by its brick and cut stone construction. Features of importance include the iconic columns and pilasters, the draped window mold on the top floor and above the entrance, the keystoned windows, the single light sash composition of all windows — the first floor side windows are recessed within semi-circular, arched openings., the boxed cornice, dentils and plain frieze. It is elevated several steps above the street level and is a very masterful example of architecture, remaining unaltered from its original construction.
“This dominant and very representative, neo-classical revival building was designed by Philadelphia architects, Stearns & Woodnutt. The contractors were Boydhouse-Aray, also from Philadelphia.
“It is a very significant building, contributing much to the varied architecture of the city. Of the eight neo-classical revival buildings in Lock Haven, it is one of the five most significant prime examples of the style. The grand scale of this building and its lavish entry are dominant features on Lock Haven’s Main Street.”
A lot of work remains to make a cultural center become a reality, Getz emphasized.
“We are in the initial stages,” Getz said. “We need to gain the support of the community, gather people for a steering committee and develop a more comprehensive plan – including a capital campaign – but the vision is that there would be technology and science incubators, music recording studios, artist residency spaces, office space and more — all of those things are on the table.”
The vision, he added, includes keeping a majority of the “aesthetics and architecture” of the existing building but doing construction regarding performance spaces and that the goal is to make the project a reality in the next five years.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Getz said.