clarence hatzfeld's south side masonic temple (1921) undergoing demolition, part 1

by eric j. nordstrom and ornament chicago

the south side masonic temple (1921) is presently under demolition.  it has been less than six months since I documented the demolition of the logan square masonic temple, also by clarence hatzfeld, architect, and more can be read about his prolific career and special emphasis on masonic temples in that post

driving to englewood today the sky hung low in a leaden pallor that cast little light, and ultimately proved ill-prescribed for photography.  complicating matters was the fact that I hadn’t worked with this wrecker in years, so i’m still unclear whether i’ll chase the rights to rescue ornament. 

i fear the carved indiana limestone ionic columns, emblematic rondels, and two plaques bearing the masonic symbol will be destroyed.  based on prior research, i’m convinced the cornerstone contains a time capsule, (see images of stone ceremony at hatzfeld-designed temple in logan square below), so i hope they take my advice and try to save it.

while south side masonic temple has been on the most endangered lists of many preservation sites for a number of years, sadly nothing was successfully actioned to save this historically important building.  at the time this structure was built there were no less than three new masonic temples being planned or under construction in chicago for an aggregate cost of $1,000,000, the south side masonic temple being the  largest of the three at a cost of $300,000.   


standing in front of this hulk of a building, the green demo fence line dwarfed by the sheer scale of this towering monument to the history of freemasonry in chicago, I felt overwhelmed by the task at hand.  i wondered how it was possible that despite a collective interest and acknowledgement of this building’s significance, i was the only one here to document its death.

towering fluted limestone columns with ionic capitals augment the entrance and a centrally located stone header below the roofline announces the “south side masonic temple,” similar to the design of the logan square masonic temple

freemasons trace their origins to the middle age stonemasons guilds of england. the square and compass suggest the ability to form both a square (representing the physical body) and a circle (representing the soul), underscoring both the physical and spiritual goals of the masonic fraternity.

the letter G stands for "geometry," or the study of the order and beauty in mathematics and nature, humanity's first instructor in the arts and sciences.

i will do my best to further document the demolition, but a lack of time, whorling fog and a persistent drizzle did not help. with the relentless pounding and rubble tumbling from within i had trouble staying focused and vowed to try again another day as i made my way back to the car feeling defeated..

please continue to part 2 on the south side masonic temple in this eight part series.  if you would like to learn about the logan square masonic temple salvage and time capsules recovered in other buildings further reading can be found here:

remnants lost and found in logan square masonic temple’s attic

2016: a year of extracting time capsules from chicago church buildings

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