Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Building Costs

This would make an excellent research paper, and someday when I develop some research chops and perhaps when I'm out of the officer line I'll have the time to pursue it, but in the meantime, I have found myself wondering lately:

Has anyone done a financial analysis of the following data points:

  • Membership numbers in the early 20th century
  • Dues costs relative to the currency of the time
  • Money spent to build the magnificent, reverent temples that we can't afford anymore

Worcester Masonic Temple - 2

I find it hard to believe that Brethren alone could have chipped in enough money to build grand edifices like the Temples at Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts, even with double our current membership or quadruple the dues we currently pay (adjusted for inflation). Were building corporations able to secure large construction loans for these projects? Did wealthy Brothers act as patrons, donating thousands of dollars? How did they get built, really?

(Former) Springfield Masonic Temple - 6

And the age-old question: Why does nobody care any more? When I talk to old-timers who had the privilege of meeting in some of the beautiful old buildings that have since been abandoned, the old temples are usually spoken of with a shrug, not the wistful sadness I feel when I look at them. And the follow-up question: Why are the new lodge buildings that do occasionally get built so utterly uninspiring? I know that they simply "don't make 'em like they used to," but surely we could do even just a little bit better than the white clapboard boxes that seem to be the norm for newer lodge buildings in New England.