Monday, November 19, 2007

A new chapter

Now that steps have been taken by the City to save the Varsity Theater, the next building on our agenda to preserve Carbondale's history should be the Tuscan Lodge.

I'd like to put together a pamphlet about the building (if there isn't one already), for fundraising purposes.

Someone wrote in a comment to Carbondale Bytelife that there have been "at least 16 benefits" for the Tuscan.
The historic Tuscan Lodge belongs to the African-American Masonic Order, who has owned the building since 1903. The group has had at least 16 benefits to raise money for the restoration of the facility.
That's a lot of benefits. I've never heard of any of them. So what's the latest?

Some denizens of the 200 block of North Washington St. are planning a hip-hop/jazz musical benefit for the building, on the property immediately behind the Tuscan Lodge, closing that one block of the street on that day.

I'll be visiting Development Services later today to glean some details about for the new chapter.


Anonymous said...

Since 1903.....that's along time?

Anonymous said...

Parentheticus said...

This is what the City had on file about the Tuscan Lodge:

The property where the Lodge hall sits was acquired by Tuscan Lodge #44 on April 4, 1903. The property was originally built on July 20, 1893 but, construction was suspended due to failure of Richart and Campbelli Bank. In May 1894, John C. Hundley, a merchant and one of Carbondale's leading businessman entered into a contract with the Odd Fellow's Lodge to complete the building and rehire the original builders TL Rasco to complete construction design in the Italian style. The building has been extensively altered in the recent decade. The store front has 1960 brick bulkheads and added plywood panes at the display window and transom locate the original entrance on the south facade which has been enclosed with wood panels. The flank entrance located at the southwest corner of the building is a paneled wooded surround. Over the entrance is a barrel vault canvas awning. The entrance retains its original cast iron sill and cast pilasters manufactured by Christopher and Simpson company of St. Louis, Missouri.

The Lodge building has both cultural and historical significance to the state, region and the community. From a community perspective, the Lodge was the first prominent African American structure conducting commerce in the City's Historic Town Square. The regional and community significance of the building was further demonstrated during segregation, when the Lodge hall served as a "cultural" safe haven for the African American community. The building housed a beauty salon, a teen center and a grocery store on the first floor, as well as a cab stand. A number of artists that performed in the Lodge hall/building were: Duke Ellington, Cab Galloway, The Eddie Randall Band with Miles Davis, and blues man Clarence Carter. On the state and national level, Carbondale's Tuscan Lodge Building #44 served as a Midwestern cross roads for culture and history connecting the larger cities of Chicago, St Louis, Memphis, and Nashville. The renovation of the Lodge building is important so that it can continue to convey the history of the African American culture and provide a viable space for organizations and business to make a contribution to the community.

PeterG said...

Hi Dave -

I figure that to fix this building, you are looking at north of $1M and more likely over $2M! There is no parking, it isn't that big, it has no real use in today's world. I went and looked at the inside 6 years ago, it was scary then and after another 6 years of leaky roof and Carbondale humidity, it has to be worse.

I'll bet you lunch that it never, never, never is restored. Best bet, it will burn and then collapse into a pile.

My vote on the next building to save is the Bucky Dome. It is a manageable project, with a reasonable budget. It is no more functional then "Da Lodge," but it will cost 1/10th as much.

Which has more historical significance or will generate more civic pride? Not sure, but only one is really possible.

Really, I would stay worried about the Varsity. That game is far from over.

PtG - your loyal Oregon reader.

Parentheticus said...

thanks to all commenters.

Peter, Bucky's Dome Home already has a committee of competent folks working on it.

ditto, the Varsity.

but the Tuscan Lodge is without a champion since Kevin Clark has moved his focus elsewhere.

my idea is to have hip-hop/jazz/music festival on the property behind the building, and close off the block and have an alcohol-free street party some sunny Saturday in the Spring.

The street will be open to folks, but the seating will be on the other side of a fence. People will still be able to hear the music on the street though.

The idea is not to raise a lot of money at the event, but raise a lot of consciousness -- especially of Oprah and wealthy musical performers, who are moved by the plight of the poor owners of the building. If it gets local TV news coverage, there's a chance. Either way, it will be fun to try.