[ No 2  ]  

WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T AFFORD A BEAUTIFUL LODGE?

FORT WORTH, TEXAS
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 05, 2019

https://dwightlongenecker.com/who-says-you-cant-afford-a-beautiful-church-2/

Here’s a great article I found about building a beautiful budget-minded church. Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville, SC. They had to build their building on a fairly limited budget (for a church), and still did a really great job. If you want to read the detailed version of his ten-point article, click through, but these are the points (in short):

  1. Use modern building techniques.
  2. Use church salvage companies.
  3. Decide that the building will be beautiful.
  4. Beautiful buildings are possible in the modern age.
  5. If you’re building a church, you’re going to spend several million.
  6. Convert a Protestant building.
  7. Use experts.
  8. Money isn’t everything.
  9. Build a church suitable for your people.
  10. Spend money on what matters.

How can we apply this to masonic lodges? Obviously, as non-sectarian fraternity chapter, a masonic lodge will have different needs than a Roman Catholic parish, but there’s a lot of cross-applicational value to what Fr. Longenecker is proposing. In fact, the following points are applicable to masonic lodge buildings without any commentary or modification:

  • Use modern building techniques.
  • Decide that the building will be beautiful.
  • Beautiful buildings are possible in the modern age.
  • Money isn’t everything.

Let’s talk about Fr. Longenecker’s other points, and how they would apply to a masonic lodge building.

2. Use church salvage companies.

Fr. Longenecker recommends using church salvage companies such as King Richard’s Liturgical Design for large items and Used Church Items for small items. It is entirely possible to also procure items for a masonic lodge from companies like this. In particular, pew-style seating and altars come to mind. Many lodges have had great success when renovating their buildings by ripping out the commonly-used theater-style seating and replacing them with elegant pews - why not try this with new construction?

The Grand Lodge of your jurisdiction can also be very helpful in this case. Many times, when a lodge demises, consolidates, and so forth, there is simply nowhere for its furniture, regalia, etc, to go. Because of this, many Grand Lodge buildings are home to closets filled to the brink with useful lodge furniture that just needs to be rehabilitated. Auction houses are a very viable solution as well, as useful paraphernalia can often be acquired at very reasonable prices.

It is also possible for furniture to be made by members of the lodge. Creating a full set of lodge furniture would be a very involved task, but fortunately, the vast majority of it can be built out of wood using designs that are both simple and elegant. It could be a fantastic opportunity for team-building and casual hangouts in a brother’s workshop.

5. If you’re building a church [lodge], you’re going to spend several million.

Brethren, there’s no bones about it: it is not cheap to build a new lodge building. Let’s use the 1921 blueprints (by architect David Castle) for Breckenridge Lodge #492. Those plans show a two-story building with exterior dimensions of 100’-0” by 33’-4” and an interior space of approximately 6000 sqft.

Based on current construction cost estimates that I was available to find online, I estimate that in 2019, it would cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $2.8 million to construct and finish-out this building prior to furnishing it, and not including the cost of land. I encourage you to do your own math on this - I’m just working off of the back of a napkin, so to speak.

A larger building will, of course, cost more. This is where we start to see the real advantage of temples being used by multiple bodies. Sure, this might be impossible for most lodges on their own, but what if you pooled together the resources of any combination of:

  • One or more lodges
  • A Royal Arch Chapter
  • A Cryptic Council
  • A Commandery
  • A Scottish Rite Club
  • A Shrine Club
  • An Eastern Star Chapter
  • A Grotto
  • and so forth?

Looking at spending upwards of $2-3 million is daunting, but if it’s a group effort, it’s more feasible to accomplish it.

6. Convert a Protestant building.

Obviously, Fr. Longenecker’s article is discussing this for the purposes of converting a Protestant church into a Roman Catholic church, but the same can be applied to lodges. There is a long history of lodges meeting in converted former churches. Outside of my jurisdiction (Grand Lodge of Texas), there are even lodges that meet within current functioning churches! Webb Lodge № 1454, AF&AM, located in Arlington, Texas, meets in a former church. It’s a modestly-sized space that’s been adapted extremely well for the needs of both Webb Lodge and Webb Chapter (OES).

There is also the possibility of buying a building from another fraternal order. The Knights of Pythias, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and so forth, are all suffering from the same membership issues as Freemasonry. If a local non-masonic fraternal body is selling their building, it may be possible to adapt for masonic use with relatively few changes.

7. Use experts.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who can I talk to who has built a lodge building within the past few years?
  • What are our practical needs as a lodge, and how to we build the lodge to fulfill those?
  • What are our ritualistic needs, and how to we build the lodge to fulfill those?
    • Know your ritual and how to confer it.
    • Consider reaching out to a member of the Committee on Work.
  • From a masonic perspective, what are the legal requirements of my lodge building?
    • Read your lawbook.
    • Talk to your DDGM. He’ll either know, or refer you to someone that does.

9. Build a church [lodge] suitable for your people.

ADA (TAS in Texas) compliance is a no-brainer. You’ve got to do it. Even when not legally required to, it is a duty to all of our brethren to make sure that our buildings are safe and accessible. However, this is, or should be, a given, so it’s not the focus of this point.

What do your members want to see in your new lodge building? We are taking point #3 seriously and deciding that the building will be beautiful. What kind of beautiful building do you want to build? Modern? Classic? Flexible? Themed? Remember, this will be a group decision. I’m personally a huge fan of brutalist architecture, but a lot of brethren are probably looking for something a little more classic. Look to cathedrals, museums, and palaces. Find places of beauty, no matter what style. Find what your brethren want and need, not only in form, but in function, and design your lodge accordingly.

What will your lodge members use the building for? We surely want the lodge to be used for more than just ritual work. Here are spaces that, in Texas, we are required to have as a bare minimum:

  • A lodge room
  • An anteroom for candidate preparation
  • An anteroom for the Tiler

And that’s it. But what about a dining room? Here are some spaces/rooms you may want to consider including in your design, based off of the needs of your lodge:

  • Restrooms
  • Restroom anterooms for privacy
  • Family restroom with a changing table
  • Dining room large enough to rent out for parties
  • Kitchen large enough to serve said dining room
  • Coat rooms!
    • To leave personal suits in
    • To store degree costumes in
  • Royal Arch “Basement”
  • Prelate’s Apartment
  • Showers & locker rooms for brethren that work in the heat
  • Walk-in storage closets for each lodge and body that meets in the building (minimize the amount of stuff stored in the lodge room itself)
  • Conference room with a projector
  • Lounge with couches, a coffee counter, a wet bar (if legal), a pool table, etc
  • Admin office spaces with working space and storage for each secretary/recorder and a shared private room for phone calls

The possibilities are endless, really.

Consider building retail space into your design. A traditional model for lodge buildings that is still used with great success today is to rent out the first floor of the temple as restaurant or retail space, and use the upper floor(s) for masonic purposes. There are some lodges out there that are able to completely cover their operating costs in this manner.

10. Spend money on what matters.

What matters to your lodge? What are you going to use most? Make sure that the elements of your lodge that will see the most use are your highest priority in quality:

  • Seating for members and officers
  • The secretary’s desk
  • Doors
  • The altar
  • The dining area

What’s your priority?

We Can Afford a Beautiful Lodge

In short, building a lodge building is going to be expensive. It’s not easy. However, we don’t have to settle for the sheet metal buildings that we see so often. It’s a lesson that the fine people of Our Lady of the Rosary Church can teach us very well. We can build a beautiful lodge building.