Signage visible: Brewsters, Crittenden, & Company: Wholesale Grocerers and Dealers in Field Seeds, Merchants Hotel, For Sale C.F. Garfield Real Estate Company 9 Exchange & Garfield Bldg, F. & A.M., Wunder Tailors, Tailors and Trimmings, Nusbaum's Lining Store 55, 1817-1901 F. & A.M., E. J. Egbert & Company, Underwood Typewriter Company.
View of the first Masonic Temple on North Clinton Street in Downtown Rochester, NY.
Photo taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1904.
In 1900, a committee of Rochesterian Freemasons purchased the 100 x 165 ft lot on the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Mortimer Street. The corner, known as the "Watson Homestead," sold for $40,000 and would become the location of the city's first Masonic Temple. With the intention to operate as the headquarters for not just the local Rochester Masonry, but the entire Thirty-Third Masonic district in New York, a number of luxuries were planned for the 3-story building. Of the many features drafted up: an Auditorium Hall for future gatherings, banquets and city conventions; a 2nd floor Stockholders' Room for visiting members and their families; a Museum of relics and artifacts; comfortable, lofty, well-ventilated Lodge Rooms; and a top floor Masonic Club, complete with billiards and games to be made available for members or rental.
On August 27, 1901, in front of an excited number of freemason brethen (wearing custom pinback buttons while clenching their small, $.25 cent souvenir trowels made just for the occasion) groundbreaking took place. Two wagonloads of earth was ceremoniously removed, with one bag of dirt saved from the Northeast corner of the property for use in future Freemason practices. Six images were recorded by the the Webster and Albee company to document the occasion. Finally completed in 1902 for approx. $270,000, the Masonic Temple stood for a little over 30 years. It was razed in 1932 for parking lot space for the former R.K.O Theatre nearby.
In 2014, while excavating the grounds for the new Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority terminal, construction workers unearthed seven, decorative stones from the original Masonic Temple that had been buried approx. 30-feet below ground during its demolition. They have been turned over to a local Mason Lodge south of Rochester.
Still in existence, is the city's second, much-larger Masonic Temple (now Auditorium Theatre) located at on East Main Street and Prince Street, and was built for at a cost of $2,225,000 in 1928.
First Masonic Temple, Rochester, N.Y.
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