Pittsfield's Masonic Temple on the market
PITTSFIELD >> Over a century ago next month, more than 1,000 well-dressed people crowded into the Masonic Temple on South Street to attend a ball that marked the final event in the massive structure's daylong dedication ceremony.
The women were clad in attractive ballgowns. The men arrived in what were known then as "evening clothes." Together, they stood on a balcony where musicians played. A crowd danced gracefully below.
"Can this be Pittsfield?" a man standing on the balcony remarked, according to The Berkshire Eagle. "It looks more like a metropolitan ball."
Both times and Pittsfield have changed greatly since that dedication ceremony took on place on May 4, 1914. But through the years, one constant has always remained: the city's 18,000-square-foot Masonic Temple has been owned and maintained by the Pittsfield Masonic Association.
The Masonic Association has put the building up for sale. Members of the Masonic Association did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
The lodge went on the market in early March and is being offered for $700,000, according to Realtor Barbara Hassan of Hassan Realty of Pittsfield, which is brokering the sale. The building and its less than one acre lot are assessed by the city at $1.7 million, according to the city assessor's office.
Hassan said the listing has been placed on several commercial realty sites in an attempt to find a buyer.
Based on her experience selling the historic Thomas Colt House on Wendell Avenue, Hassan said casting a wide net is a good way to find an interested party.
"A lot of times you don't know who you're going to get," she said. "It turned out to be broad marketing."
The Colt House, built in 1866, was put on the market in 2010 by the Women's Club of Pittsfield, which had owned it for more than 70 years. The property was sold twice, the second time to Pittsfield native Lisa Whitney of New York City, who purchased the building in 2012 and turned it into an arts and cultural center. Hassan was not involved in the second sale of the property.
Whitney paid $225,000 for the structure, a little less than half of the original asking price.
Like the Colt House, the Masonic Temple has historic roots in the community. It was designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance, whose other city projects include the Colonial Theatre, and the historic Kinnell-Kresge Building on North Street that currently houses the Beacon Cinema.
The parsonage of the First Church of Christ in Pittsfield occupied the property for 66 years before the Pittsfield Masonic Association bought the South Street plot in April 1911. The contract to construct the Masonic Temple was awarded to the firm of Foote & Jones in July 1912, and the cornerstone was laid three months later.
Berkshire County has 11 Masonic lodges that occupy 10 buildings located between Great Barrington and Williamstown, according to Massfreemasonry.org. The buildings in Pittsfield and West Stockbridge each house two lodges.
Freemasonry, whose origins date back to the guild Masons of medieval Europe, has existed in the Berkshires since at least the mid-19th century — the Berkshire Lodge of Masons in Adams celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007.
The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts in Boston, founded in 1733, is the oldest continuing Masonic organization in the Western Hemisphere.
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