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Massive Makeover

Masonic Temple renovation in Madison
a pet project for Campbells

Future use of space
uncertain when the dust settles

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (August 2003) – The former Masonic Temple on Madison’s Main Street, hidden behind scaffolding blanketed with tarps, has been the topic of much speculation by area residents the past several months. Activity at the historic building, which stood dormant for quite some time, has had many wondering just what’s going on.
Soon, probably just prior to the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, some of the speculation will be laid to rest. By that time, the building’s owners, John and Donn Campbell, hope to have removed the platforms and tarps behind which workers have been steadily laboring to remove many layers of paint from the building’s brick exterior.
“We’re looking at about 115 years of paint they’re stripping, all by hand,” said Donn Campbell. “Nobody who’s living today has seen the brick.”
Seeing so much time and effort put into the building’s renovation has also had people asking just who are the Campbells and why are they tackling such a massive project? It’s not what most would assume.

Masonic Lodge roof

Photo by Don Ward

Workers renovate the
roof on the back side.

The Campbells and their four children, ages 8-13, moved to Madison from Key West, Fla., in 2000. The couple had been searching the country for a good place to raise their children for about three years. They first visited Madison in 1996 on the recommendation of a friend and immediately fell in love with the town. Although they looked at several cities across the country, the Campbells found that Madison consistently stayed at the top of their list. “My husband would always say (about other cities), ‘It’s nice, but it’s not Madison,’ “ recalled Campbell.
In 1999, the Campbells decided to make Madison their new home. That year, while scouting properties for sale in the area, they looked at the Masonic Temple. The building had been put on the market by the Masons, and Donn Campbell thought that the second and third floors might make a nice home.
Although they loved the building, the couple hesitated to make an offer. They decided that with four young children, it would be best to have some land – something they wouldn’t get with a building in the middle of downtown.
In the interim, the Masonic Temple was purchased by real estate investor and entrepreneur Bob Maile, owner of Madison Table & Light Co. The Campbells ultimately opted for a home on the hilltop, the former Glyman farm. But they never forgot about the Masonic Temple. “It was constantly nagging at me that we didn’t buy it,” said Campbell.
After moving to Madison, Campbell said she walked by the building every day, still contemplating what she would do if she owned it. Eventually, she and her husband decided to see if Maile was willing to sell. “We contacted Mr. Maile and were able to work something out,” Campbell said.

Masonic Lodge hall.

Photo by Ruth Wright

Inside the former lodge hall.

The couple purchased the property from Maile in November 2001. Now, nearly two years later, the Campbells are well on their way to transforming the building into the handsome structure it once was. Built in 1871-1872, the Masonic Temple was erected at a cost of approximately $25,000, according to records found in the Jefferson County Historical Society archives. That was an amount that pales in comparison to the cost of renovation.
Campbell declined to reveal just how much it is costing to renovate the building. But the couple obviously have put quite a bit of money into the project. Although she admits it hasn’t been easy or inexpensive, Campbell said she had no illusions going into the project. It’s not an investment, Campbell quickly pointed out.
Brian Martin, the general contractor of the project, explained some of the details that go into restoring a historic structure. Just stripping the paint from exterior brick, has been “a very lengthy process involving lots of research and testing,” Martin said. Martin’s crew applies a biodegradable chemical stripper to the paint, which is then scraped off by hand. After the paint is removed, the brick is washed down. All water and paint is collected treated on site with another chemical product that neutralizes any toxins, according to Martin.
“It’s pretty extensive,” said Martin of the restoration process. “The whole idea is to rework everything to make it look as close to the original as possible.”
Part of Campbell’s dedication to such an extensive project stems from her love of older buildings. The family’s residence in Key West was a 160-year-old home that she and her husband restored. Leaving the home behind had Campbell itching to tackle another project in Madison. “I knew that we wanted to do something with an older building, and this Main Street is just amazing,” Campbell said.
After the Campbells purchased the building, they began researching its history, gathering what little information was available from old newspaper clippings, library and historical society archives. Because the Masons are a secretive society, not a lot of information about the building exists. The Campbells are using what pictures and information they have culled from various sources to make sure that everything is being restored as close to the original state as possible, inside and out.
Besides stripping paint from the building’s exterior, that includes laying a new roof in a pattern as close to the original as possible and repainting third-floor meeting rooms in original paint schemes.
To accomplish the latter, two separate paint analyses were ordered to determine the original colors. Various colors, according to Campbell, held particular meaning among the Masons.
Because they are intent on restoring the building as closely as possible to its original form, the Campbells have made few structural changes. One of the few walls that has been removed was on the second floor, located directly across from the top of the stairway. The wall was likely an addition, said Campbell, because its removal revealed a hidden stairwell. Campbell had the staircase, which leads down and out the back of the building, reconstructed.
A tour of the building’s interior revealed many interesting architectural features. The second floor is divided into several rooms, which were at one time leased by the Masons for various offices including the Justice of the Peace. There is also evidence that the public library was once housed on the second floor, said Campbell. The floor was closed to the public in the 1940s. The second floor and became social rooms, a kitchen and dining room for the hall.
The third floor was used by the Masons for meetings and rituals. Two large meeting rooms flank the floors north and south sides. The smaller of the two contains remnants of a small raised stage. The second meeting room, the larger and more ornate of the two, contains three columned alters or platforms. The room also features a double-barrel vaulted ceiling, which soars to a peak of about 20 feet, according to Martin.
The Campbells have made several interesting finds during the renovation process. After stripping some of the original woodwork, it was discovered that the pine from which the woodwork was made had originally been hand-painted to resemble oak or rosewood.
Another interesting discovery was the two small, approximately 5x5-feet rooms painted black, each with a small built-in bench as the only accoutrement. Campbell nicknamed them “mediation rooms.”
Campbell was pretty close in her guess of the rooms’ purpose. The Knights Templar, part of the York Rite, a division of the Masons, called these rooms the “chamber of reflection,” according to Herbert Hoover, a member of Union Lodge #2 F&AM. Inductees into the secretive society were taken to the rooms to reflect upon three important questions before giving their answers and being accepted into the society, Hoover said.
Hoover, who has been a Mason since 1960, said the organization decided to sell the property when members realized they could not afford to make the renovations needed to make it a useful property, something he said has happened to many Masonic fraternities across the country. Now in a building on Bear Street, Hoover said the Masons are glad to see new life being restored to their old meeting place. “I think the consensus is that we’re glad that it will be made into a showplace,” he said.
One primary question Campbell said she is often asked is what the rest of the building will be used for. Campbell is not yet sure. The second floor is divided into several rooms and could be used, as in the past, for offices or retail space. “I think it would be a beautiful restaurant,” Campbell said.
The third floor will be the last area to be renovated. Campbell said that she envisions the floor as possible event space or a private apartment. It has been suggested that the walls be removed, opening up the entire floor, Campbell said, but that’s something she could not bring herself to do.
Currently, two retail shops occupy the first floor. All Ways Pottery opened last July and Something Simple opened in late September. Both shop owners are enduring the inconvenience of renovation going on above them, but they, like many other retailers downtown, are hopeful that in the end it will be worth the wait.

Back to August 2003 Articles.

 

 

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