Historical Inquiry Prompts Lodge Renovation Project

By C. Max Pittman, King Solomon Lodge No. 10

Following a contest in the Kansas Mason (Vol. 48, No. 3) to determine the oldest lodge in the state still in its original building, the members of King Solomon Lodge No. 10 in Leavenworth did a little digging.

Researching their building, which is located at 423 ½ Delaware Street, the members learned that the Leavenworth Masonic Temple was among the three oldest known Masonic buildings in Kansas to have been in continuous operation since constructed.

The Leavenworth building is the largest and most ornate of the three.

The Leavenworth Masonic Temple c. 1920 (click to enlarge)

It was designed by William P. Feth, a Leavenworth architect, built in 1913 and occupied in 1914. It has since become a Kansas Masonic landmark.

Following their research, members of King Solomon Lodge began planning improvements to the building, contemplating adding a new elevator, and air conditioning to improve its usage and help safeguard the building’s future. The group agreed that funding such a project would not be easy but was certainly worth their best effort.

One member, Mark Swope, said he was surprised when he and the Lodge Secretary discovered the original architect’s drawings of the building in the basement vault. When the plans were opened up they were found to be in exceptionally good condition — drawn on linen cloth as was the practice at that time. The building has since been examined by a Kansas City structural engineering firm who surveyed the property and reported it to be in solid condition, noting many unique architectural features that they recommended be well preserved.

Among the architectural highlights of the temple are decorative terra cotta bandings and ornate cornice work on the exterior façade, incorporating Masonic symbols into the design. Inside, visitors are met with a grand entrance stairway with marble wall panels and steps, the original tile flooring in the hallways, and original wood trim with its original finish. In addition, the temple boasts original furniture, casework and millwork with ornamental detailing throughout.

The temple now serves the Byington Chapter No. 177, Order of Eastern Star, Jobs Daughters Bethel 28, the York Rite Bodies, as well as King Solomon Lodge.

The group of members of King Solomon Lodge hopes that improvements to the building will help to generate new interest in downtown Leavenworth as well as renew interest in membership of the Masonic Bodies.