Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Abandoned Masonic Temple, West Capitol Street, Jackson, Mississippi

West Capitol Street in Jackson is discouraging and grim. Once you cross under the railroad tracks south of the recently-restored Union Station and head northwest, you enter a Detroit-like post apocalyptic world of empty lots, crumbling houses, abandoned shops, and once-grand churches that now serve different congregations than the ones who built the edifices.
Looming over churches, shops, and bumpy parking lots is a semi-abandoned Masonic Temple at 1130 West Capitol. According to my friend at MDAH, the temple was built around 1923-25 and was designed by South Carolina architect Hyman W. Witcover. Witcover was active in the Masonic order and designed other Masonic temples in the South. Otherwise, MDAH has very little information about the building, and a Google search revealed very little. The Masons abandoned their West Capital building in the early 1990s, and moved to a steel structure on I-55S.
As you can see, this was essentially a big box with some decorative elements, pseudo-columns. I wish I could get inside. I assume there was a big auditorium or meeting hall in the center. I once heard that many of these temples were semi-legally-sanctioned speakeasies in the Prohibition era. All the best people in town were members.
The cornerstone, on Bratton Street (on the back of the building?) said 1923. Water was pouring out of the foundation and this corner had large cracks in the brick walls. I asked some people in a small shack across the street about the water, but they seemed baffled or did not understand what I was talking about. Or maybe they had not noticed even though the sidewalk was turning into a swamp.
Only one window on the basement level had dusty panes where I could place the camera.
This was a progressive design with an elevator access on the ground floor.
Right across the intersection at 101 Rose Street is this imposing mansion. It shows what a prosperous neighborhood this was in the early 20th century.
Further in town (east) at the intersection of West Amite and West Capital Streets, the scene is of abandoned and closed businesses. What will revive an area like this? Look at much of Detroit, which was once a much more prosperous city than Jackson, and you see that once the decay sets in, it progresses indefinitely.

Photographs taken with a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera.

1 comment:

  1. According to the Biloxi Daily Herald, the contract to build was let March 17, 1923 to I. C. Garber of Jackson, and the cornerstone was to be laid May 29. The building was described as 146 feet x 298 feet with a 1200-seat capacity dining room. The Scottish Rite Hall was 36x45, and had a "scenic alcove of 20 by 45 feet with 450 opera chairs." Contract price was $350,000 and contained officers' rooms, club rooms, showers, and kitchen.

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