Monday, January 03, 2011

Art Deco with machine-shed tophat

Here is a photo of the Chariton Masonic Temple wearing its new hat, a machine-shed type roof that appears to have been dropped unexpectedly from heaven onto a classic 1930s Art Deco building at the intersection of Grand and Armory. I grumbled about this roof the other day and, as my mother’s son, still am struggling to find something nice to say about it.

Perhaps it will help preserve the structural integrity of the building beneath it and one day can be removed, although that seems unlikely.

Below is a postcard from the collection of the late Gary Tharp showing how the temple looked originally. I’m not sure how long after the building’s 1937 dedication this photo was taken. I would guess the 1950s, since the porous facing appears discolored (perhaps by smoke from coal fires). That discoloration has been removed.

In both the postcard and the photo below you can see that the temple still stands companionably next door to the the Stuart house just to the north.

The building, designed by Chariton architect William L. Perkins and part of the suite of his buildings now on the National Register of Historic Places, is not easy to love --- unless you’re really into Art Deco. But it certainly can be admired.

Close up, the detail of the restrained exterior is amazing.

The fact that the temple was built at an estimated cost of $50,000 by Chariton Lodge No. 63, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at the height of the Great Depression gives you some idea of the influence Masons once had in Chariton.

That is no longer the case, but even when I was growing up it was generally accepted that the temple was a place for men of consequence, or who considered themselves to be of consequence, many of them Methodist or Presbyterian, to engage in arcane rituals --- and heaven only knows what else.

Women had their place in Masonic auxiliaries to which master Masons also could belong --- Order of the Eastern Star, for example --- but could not be Masons. Many who were not Masons looked upon Masons with suspicion --- all those secret handshakes and such, ya know, and the sneaking suspicion that if you crossed a Mason all those other Masons would get together and play gotcha.

That was an outlook encouraged by the fact Roman Catholics and a substantial percentage of protestants deplored the quasi-religious underpinnings of Masonry and discouraged membership.

Much of Freemasonry’s bad press was based on myth, of course, but when combined with changing times and the fact males no longer get together in exclusive company to socialize as they once did has contributed to its decline, as well as that of other fraternal organizations.

Chariton still has an active, although substantially smaller, lodge; and now the lodge has a grand old building under a sad --- although hopefully effective --- new roof.

1 comment:

JK said...

After reading your post the other day on the lodge's new roof, even though I've never been to Chariton and live far away, I was fascinated enough that I sought out the lodge on Google maps (not shown) then found a picture on the lodge's website, but the new roof wasn't shown, I had to picture it in the mind's eye and, yes, that picture, sadly enough, did look something like this. I'm surprised how similar it looks to what I'd imagined because I had informed my imagination that it was exaggerating things.

One wonders as to the why and, if essential, why the new roof couldn't be better integrated with the art deco style.