Will the Temple Return to Florence? A Small Town Watches

Masonic temple building on fire, 4 August 2021 (KKTV, Colorado Springs).

In March 2020, when the Masonic temple building up in Florence, Colorado, went on sale, I wrote a post titled “Start Your Own Magical Lodge in Southern Colorado.” Maybe I was a little under the spell of the AMC television series Lodge 49.

I had the usual fantasies about what I would do if I had the building and a jillion dollars. I had been all over the ground floor, the basement (essentially untouched since 1920 or so), but not the second floor with the lodge rooms.

I used to visit a coffeehouse on the ground floor, and the owner said that the Masons were good landlords. (I think the building started out with a bank on the ground floor in the early 1900s. It is part of the Florence Historic District.) When I first came to the area, an auto parts store was in the space later taken by the coffeehouse.

Then the Masonic lodge, slowly shrinking, sold the building in April 2020 for a mere  $335,000. Lodge 97 A.F. & A. M. was no more.

The new owners were doing something upstairs — contractors came and went, and I could see new windows all around.

Meanwhile, the coffeehouse had relocated across the street and down a block. Smart move.

Late at night on August 4th, the building caught fire. Firefighters attempted an interior attack but had to retreat, switching tactics to “surround and drown.” I don’t think that the Florence VFD gets to use their aerial apparatus very often, but that night they did.

“Main Street fires are the fires that we’re afraid of because the buildings are so old and there’s so many hidden chases in there for the fire to travel through, which is what happened on this one,” said the fire chief.

Three days after the fire. Most of the roof is gone.

It wasn’t exactly Notre Dame de Paris, but the old Masonic temple was part of my mental landscape, as well as for all those who lived in Florence. I had spent a lot of hours there.

The new owners had converted the upper floor to apartments, which were not yet occupied. Retail businesses on the ground floor had the usual smoke and water damage.

I figured that was it, and soon it would just be a pile of bricks. Perhaps the Masons had kept the salamanders at bay for a century, but something had gone wrong.

Another view on the 19th, with dumpsters and trailers.

On my last visit to Florence, I saw trailers from a disaster-recovery firm and what looked like preparations for clearing debris. Did enough of the steel roof trusses survive?

Fingers crossed — maybe it will not be lost.