Community Government

City council considers proposal to demolish historic Masonic Lodge

Posted on May 17th, 2023 By:

The Gig Harbor City Council will consider a proposal to demolish the old Masonic Lodge building at Crescent Creek Park at its meeting on Monday, May 22.

Renovating the historic lodge to bring it up to code and make it usable by the public would cost at least $1.7 million, a consultant told council members during a study session meeting on May 11.

After hearing the high cost of updating the building, council members asked city staff to draft an ordinance calling for demolition of the building. The council will consider the proposal during its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at city hall, 3510 Grandview Street.

People can comment on the proposal at that meeting, or email comments to [email protected] before 3 p.m. on May 22.

Crescent Creek master plan

The council reviewed the Masonic Lodge’s status as part of the master planning process for Crescent Creek Park.

Previously, the city asked a consulting firm to determine the cost to make “minimal upgrades,” to accommodate public use of main floor of the building, Parks Director Jennifer Haro told the council.

The former Crescent Valley School and Masonic Lodge building

Consultants estimated it would cost more than $1.7 million to make the main floor and basement bathrooms ADA-compliant; add main floor bathrooms; and make structural and waterproofing repairs to the building’s foundation. The cost would also cover remediation for lead and asbestos found in the building and opening up the existing windows. Read the city staff and consultants’ reports here.

Adding main floor bathrooms and making the basement bathrooms ADA compliant, as required by building codes, would require moving a load-bearing wall and modifying the foundation, Haro said.

The minimum remodel would leave the main floor with 1,764 square feet of assembly space.

A seismic and geotechnical evaluation would cost an additional $100,000 and take four to five months. The Gig Harbor Co-Op Preschool, which has rented the basement since 1987, would have to move during a seismic evaluation or remodel, Haro added.

Three options for Masonic Lodge

The council chose from three options for the building’s future:

  • Demolish the building and repurpose the space for other park improvements.
  • Determine a funding source for the minimal upgrades and eventually open the building for public uses.
  • Perform necessary remediation like waterproofing the foundation and removing contamination, then leave the main floor as-is for the immediate future.

Haro noted that many city residents had expressed interest in the building as a place for rehearsal space, art shows and similar uses. Others asked that the city consider placing the building on the historic register.

The building doesn’t qualify for state or federal historic registers because of extensive alterations since it was constructed in 1915. But it might qualify for local listing.

Building history

Lucy Goodman, one of Gig Harbor’s first teachers, taught in the Masonic Lodge for a few years back when it was Crescent Valley School. Local historians consider Goodman a key figure.

The building was decommissioned as a school in 1942. The Masonic Temple Association bought it in 1949 and remodeled it as John Paul Jones Lodge No. 217. Workers removed the building’s second story and tower and covered the main floor windows.

The city of Gig Harbor bought the building in 2017. Its main floor and attic are vacant, while the preschool operates in the basement.

The former Crescent Valley School building, around 1948. Photo by Harbor History Museum/via city of Gig Harbor

Listing the building on the local historical register would trigger Design Review Board approval to make any changes to the structure, Haro said.

The Pierce County Assessor’s Office pegs the building value at $128,200 and the  land at $298,800. Demolishing it would cost around $170,445, according to the consultant.

Some materials from the structure might be salvageable and used in a new building at the same site. That would require that the demolition be done by hand, which would increase costs.

Open house observations

Jennifer Vong of consultants HBB Landscape Architecture noted that many people commented on the Masonic Lodge during a recent open house for the city’s Crescent Creek Park plan.

“A lot of people we talked to at the open house recognized that it’s got some historical interest to the community,” Vong said. “There are definitely some community members who feel strongly about the relevancy of the building and the history of the site, even though you can’t see a lot of it in today’s structure. And there was a lot of discussion about the need for a space for the community to actually meet and use in any number of ways.”

Councilmember Le Rodenberg noted that people who take surveys don’t take into account how much it would cost to save the Masonic Lodge.

“I love that old building, but in my opinion, demolition and stop spending money on any more inspections is the way that I’d like to see us go,” he said. “But with the caveat that we seriously look at, when we decide what’s going to be done at that park, that we think about building a building that can fulfill indoor needs for an assembly spot.”