DES MOINES — A palatial creating overlooking the water in Des Moines, the Landmark on the Sound served for a long time as a retirement property for Freemasons. In its last many years of use, the Masonic setting up became an party location where by couples exchanged vows beneath ornate chandeliers.

Now, the structure that resembles a stately previous resort awaits demolition: Whilst unique programs stay unclear, the property was offered very last 12 months and demolition permits have been filed.

Constructed in 1926, the 1,319,850-square-foot campus on Marine View Generate South wanted updates to its electrical, mechanical and plumbing devices, as well as renovations for seismic protection, all of which had been price-prohibitive for the Freemasons. Necessary updates have been approximated to price about $40 million, explained Clint Brown Jr, grand secretary of Masons in Washington.

Today, graffiti is plastered on the entrance pillars, and a protection fence wrapped in ivy helps prevent readers from entering the grounds.

“The making, even though in disrepair, is an iconic architectural symbol in our Town and area,” said Susan Cezar, Chief Strategic Officer of the Metropolis of Des Moines.

Its heritage

The world’s oldest and biggest fraternal corporation, Freemasonry initially began as a guild for stonemasons all through the Center Ages in Europe and continued as a social team. Now, Masons are usually recognized for their signature lodges, which attained a heyday in building concerning 1900 and 1940, in accordance to the Masons in Washington.

But the Landmark on the Seem was distinctive. Though most of the state’s Masonic properties ended up developed as lodges, the Des Moines framework was the next-oldest retirement property for Freemasons in Washington, subsequent the first one particular built in Puyallup. There are currently 157 Masonic lodges in Washington, said Brown, and more than 100 of these are nonetheless owned by Masons. Some structures host a number of lodges, or Masonic groups.   

At the Landmark on the Seem, residents of the retirement household would assign all of their home to the Freemasons in exchange for lifelong treatment. The last individual on these types of a strategy was cared for till her death a number of weeks in the past, reported Chris Coffman, grand grasp of Masons in Washington. An additional possibility for residents integrated month-to-month rental payments. When the retirement home was shut in 2006 due to the fact of its out-of-date facilities —  for case in point, the main elevator could not in shape a stretcher if health care aid was necessary — the remaining people ended up put in other housing.

“A ton of men and women experienced near emotional ties [to it],” said Coffman. He recently gained a letter from the daughter of two residents of the retirement home who shared how a great deal she appreciated checking out the building. After the last resident left the retirement dwelling, it served as an party heart for a number of many years, and has sat vacant for close to a 10 years. “One of the most difficult matters we experienced to do was to sell it,” Coffman added.

The Freemasons offered the property in August 2019 to EPC Holdings LLC for $11.5 million, and it’s now owned by Zenith Houses LLC. The constructing is not at the moment stated as a King County, state or nationwide landmark, in accordance to Cezar from the Town of Des Moines, and it was marketed with no any pushback from local residents.

The Masons submitted an application for a demolition permit in July 2019 as section of the sale. The metropolis is at present waiting around for supplemental elements from the current proprietors right after they resubmitted the demolition allow software in September 2020.  

A following phase of the course of action will consist of an environmental assessment by the metropolis underneath the Point out Environmental Policy Act. “This home is crucial in the Des Moines neighborhood,” explained Cezar, incorporating that government organizations and neighborhood inhabitants will have an chance to share public responses as component of the review process.

Though a lot of Masonic properties are staying transformed all through the nation — some even turning into motion picture theaters, these kinds of as the SIFF Cinema Egyptian Theatre in Seattle’s Capitol Hill and the Ark Lodge Cinemas in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood — Coffman mentioned that most of Washington’s constructions keep on being in excellent problem. Numerous of the Masonic buildings proceed to provide their first intent as conference destinations for the business, and some areas of the properties are rented out to churches or merchants to aid defray fees.

Whilst they have not finalized the facts of their strategies, the current assets homeowners have expressed interest in continuing its legacy as a put for men and women to appear alongside one another.

 “Zenith Attributes is at present doing the job with the Town on what will make perception and what the opportunity might be, one particular of which would be to produce a living asset in the neighborhood for generations to arrive,” explained a spokesperson for Zenith Houses. “We are hunting ahead to operating jointly with the City on producing a extraordinary spot.”