New look for historic building

Published 1:05 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2005

By By MIKELL FREY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Niles Masonic Lodge, a historic building that dates back to 1892, has slowly but surely begun to catch up to the restoration of other long-standing buildings in downtown Niles with the installation of its brand new Main Street entrance sign, that went up last week.
The original sign, which used to sit to the side of the building on the fraternal order's Third Street entrance and can be traced back to the 1930s, has been refurbished and mounted through a company in South Bend, Ind., known as Just Neon.
Their final step will be to supply electricity.
Funding for the sign came partly from the city, who supplied 25 percent with a grant they received from the state of Michigan, and partly from two local foundations.
Another contributor to the sign's renovation came from a mason and city council member, Scott Clark.
The four emblems that appear on the unique and intricately painted sign represent the organizations that have met within the building's confines over the history of its existence. Two emblems represent York Rite bodies, the blue represents the Masonic Lodge organization and another represents the Eastern Star women's organization.
Sam Teeter, worshipful master of the lodge, was excited to see the new sign go up and looks forward to more changes within the interior and posterior of the building in the coming year.
Other work destined for the building includes stripping of the wood boards on the outside of the building, which will be replaced with glass blocks, and repair of the windowsills.
Restoration of the lodge's sign and structure has been financed as a last step in the city's facade restoration project, which began in June 2003.
Juan Enrique Ganum, community development director for the city of Niles, said, "We started over by the river and moved our way up. This is the last building that the city will be renovating."
The fraternal order of the lodge are currently meeting once a week on the first Tuesday of every month. At one time the organization, which has convened in Niles since 1842, held well over 800 members, but currently holds steady at around 250.
The rich history of not only the order, but the building is undeniable.