Lodge looks to sell building, keep meeting space
The historic building that houses the New England Lodge in downtown Worthington is for sale.
The old lodge building at 634 High St. was built by Worthington founder James Kilbourne in 1820. Kilbourne and many of the community's founders were Masons and needed a meeting place.
In 1955, the Grand Lodge of Ohio built an addition to the building. The two are attached by a breezeway.
The statewide organization moved its offices from Worthington to Springfield in December 2012. According to a 1954 agreement, the deed was transferred to the New England Lodge, which is the local Masonic organization.
The New England Lodge cannot afford to maintain the building, said lodge member and longtime Worthington resident Michael Clevenger.
"We would entertain any and all proposals," he said. "We hope someone would maintain it in such a manner that we could continue to meet there."
Asking price for the building is $1.5 million. A half-acre grassy area north and east of the building is priced at $229,000.
The organization also would consider a long-term lease agreement. The new building has a kitchen and dining area and could be used as a restaurant. A catering company has approached the lodge and is considering the site for an event venue.
"I would like to see something to drive visitors to downtown Worthington," said Clevenger, who sits on the board of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Worthington.
Offices, restaurants or a mix of uses are how Worthington Economic Development Manager Jeff Harris sees the lodge redeveloping. One possibility would be a law firm.
"We would like to see something that adds vibrancy to downtown, but we would also like to see something that brings workers to the city," he said.
The 1820 building has 1,500 square feet on each of its two floors. The ground floor once housed the state Masonic museum. Display cases and historic items have been removed.
Upstairs is a meeting room. The entire building is furnished as a lodge would have been in the 1820s. It is on the U.S. Register of Historic Places.
The 1955 building has 5,000 square feet on each of three floors. On the lower levels are small offices, with an auditorium-style meeting room on the upper level.
The building is zoned C-3, for offices and institution, but both Clevenger and Harris said C-5 would be appropriate. C-5 is the downtown zoning category that allows for offices, restaurants and commercial uses.
"It is a great building, but it needs updating," Clevenger said. "It has a pleasant look from the outside."
Seven Masonic-related organizations meet in the building.
The New England Lodge has 750 members.
Like the membership of many churches and service organizations, Masons are aging and dying, with overall numbers dwindling. But the New England Lodge has gone the other way. Many of its officers are in their 30s, Clevenger said.
The New England Lodge is the longest continually operating lodge west of the Allegheny Mountains, and Clevenger does not see it disbanding any time soon. If it must move, it will, but even that would not be easy, he said.
"For us to go out of business would be a big step," he said.