Today, it is a boutique hotel, but more than 100 years ago, the Great Western Building was the home of North Yakima’s Masonic Temple, with its ornate Lodge Room looking mostly as it did when it was in use.
Freemasons have a long and rich history, with some accounts tracing its origins back to either the Knights Templar during the Crusades, the stonecutters who worked on Europe’s cathedrals or even the building of Solomon’s Temple.
Among its ranks are George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and the French philosopher Voltaire. The organization stresses brotherly love and charity, with the aim of “making good men better.”
Washington’s grand lodge was organized in December 1858, by the lodges in Olympia, Steilacoom, Grand Mound and Vancouver.
On Sept. 28, 1874, the grand lodge authorized the creation of a lodge in what was then Yakima City — now known as Union Gap. It was chartered a year later, and in Feb. 8, 1878, it was named Yakima Lodge No. 24.
When the Northern Pacific Railway came into the Valley and created North Yakima as its depot, the center of life in the Valley shifted north as well, along with the Masons. In 1908, with the city and the lodge growing, Yakima’s masons sought a grander place.
The plan was to build a six-story building near the corner of North Fourth Street and East Yakima Avenue. Lower levels of the building would be rented out as office space, while the lodge would have the fifth and sixth floors. In January 1910, the Yakima Daily Republic reported that the lodge was seeking subscriptions to help pay for at least part the $145,000 cost of construction. In the article, it stated that Yakima’s Masonic Temple would be the only one in the country to follow closely the pattern of Solomon’s Temple, which stood where the Dome of the Rock mosque stands today in Jerusalem.
But some of the plans had to be scaled back, when the bids all came in over budget. While not backing down on the plans for a temple that would match Solomon’s, the Republic reported that the Masons were telling the bidders to resubmit their bids using less expensive materials.
Eventually, Portland-based Northwest Bridge Works won the bid, and architects W.W. DeVeaux and Frederick Heath were given the task of designing the building and its hall.
The National Register for Historic Places application for the building describes it as a singular example of the Second Empire style of design, with Corinthian pilasters and a mansard crown resting on a heavy cornice. Urn-like finials decorate the building.
The grand jewel of the building was the lodge room on the highest floor. Planned to be a replica of Solomon’s Temple, the room had 29 columns along each side, with 15 at each end. Skylights in the ceiling permit diffused natural light to illuminate the interior, which was also adorned with Masonic symbols.
Among those decorations were two ceremonial pillars, named Jachin and Boaz after the pillars that adorned the entrance to Solomon’s Temple. These pillars were surmounted with two glass globes made by Tiffany’s in New York, one a globe of the Earth representing the terrestrial world, while the other had symbols for the celestial world.
Ground was broken in September 1910, with James Stuart, the lodge’s oldest member and a Yakima Valley pioneer giving both the keynote speech as well as working the plow that would cut the first furrow in the vacant lot. The Yakima Daily Republic reported that Stuart was considered a hero among local Masons for swimming across the Yakima River with the lodge charter to ensure that a meeting could be properly conducted.
“I have been duly honored today for any acts I may have performed at that time,” Stuart told the assembled crowd. “For the like of this occurrence has not been seen in the Northwest.”
Work commenced on the project shortly afterward, only stopping when winter weather made working with reinforced concrete difficult. As anticipated, the building was completed in September 1911, with the ceremony to lay the keystone in the front entrance arch timed to coincide with the Washington State Fair.
The keystone’s trip from Jerusalem involved help from the U.S. Consul there. A Mason himself, he testified to the provenance of the stone to satisfy Yakima skeptics, and a few minor mishaps along the way. First, a U.S. Customs inspector in New York insisted that a $50 duty be paid, even though the stone was not for a commercial building, and then it got temporarily lost in transit somewhere near Ohio.
At the time of its construction, the six-story building was considered the tallest between Seattle and Spokane.
The Masons used the building until 1965, when it was sold, and the Masons moved to new headquarters in the city. It then housed the Temple Café and Reeds Hat Store before becoming vacant until 1969.
The building’s new owners, Thomas F. Hargis Jr. and James O. May, began restoring the building, focusing on the Lodge Hall that suffered vandalism, and the floors were converted to office use. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
More recently, JEM Development spent
$4 million renovating the building
, which is now the Hotel Maison. Masonic symbols can still be found in the building and there are plans to use the Lodge Room for meeting space.
At this time, the upper room is closed to the public, but pictures of the room can be seen on the hotel’s website.
Artifacts from the lodge, including the Jachin and Boaz pillars and their glass globes, are on display at the Yakima Valley Museum.