Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vicksburg's Lost Masonic Temple

During the early 20th century, most American cities of any size or commercial prominence had a Masonic Temple or Lodge. Often it was a well-built building in the commercial area, typically dating from the late-1800s or early 1900s. The Masons must have been fabulously wealthy to be able to buy land and erect substantial brick buildings in major cities. I sometimes wondered if Vicksburg had a lodge, and by pure chance, found some photographs in the Library of Congress' holdings.
This rather severe three-floor building is the former Masonic Temple, at the corner of Grove and Washington Streets. The view is looking uphill to the east on Grove St. This building and the small shops to the left were razed sometime before 1985, and the grassy lot now serves the weekly farmers' market. The present Highway 61 Coffeeshop and Attic Gallery are just off the frame to the right, where the cars are pointing. The metadata from Library of Congress does not provide a specific date other than post-1933. My guess from the cars is mid-1970s.
This is the view of the rear. The windows are broken out, so it must have been abandoned at the time the photograph was taken. My friend from Mississippi Department of Archives and History checked and found an undated article from the Vicksburg Sunday Post, apparently from the 1970s with a photo of the building and a caption noting that it had recently "been taken by Urban Renewal" and demolished. The article was mostly about the history of the lodge and the contents of  in its cornerstone. Many historic building in Vicksburg were demolished during the urban renewal craze of the late-1970s.
This is a photograph from a 1931 paper (James, P.E. 1931. Vicksburg: A Study in Urban Geography, Geographical Review, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Apr., 1931), pp. 234-243). The temple is the building with a light roof in the middle left. Note the gas tank in the middle of the photograph near the river.
This is postcard 90864-01-postcard_ViewNorth from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The temple is the tall building in the right center. The Yazoo Canal is in flood, and I wonder if this was taken during the 1927 flood?
This is the grassy field where the buildings once stood. They were already gone when I moved to town in 1985. The limestone block wall in the center may be Civil-War era.
The Reverend Dennis painted the Masonic symbol in several places on Margaret's Gro on North Washington Street. He spent two decades decorating the old grocery store as a "Bible Temple to God." The Reverend passed away a few years ago, and his Temple is crumbling away.

If anyone can add any information about the Vicksburg Masonic Temple, please add to the comments. Based on a quick search, I found two present lodges. I do not know how active they are.
1. Masonic Temple, W.G. Paxton Lodge #559; and
2. William H. Stevens Lodge #121, F&AM Masonic Lodge in Vicksburg, MS.

3 comments:

  1. In the 1931 photo, is that the Vicksburg gasometer, center of photo, next to the canal?

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    1. Good Catch! That is a great photograph of those gasometers.

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  2. YES, you are absolutely right. I did not pay attention until you brought it to my attention. The bottom of the gasometer is a 16-sided shed now used by City of Vicksburg trucks. Preservation in Mississippi showed an aerial photograph in 2014:
    http://misspreservation.com/2014/09/23/the-last-of-the-mississippi-gasometers/vicksburg-gas-light-works-vicksburg-ms/

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