A 125-year-old building in Delta has been awarded a spot on the National Register of Historic Places but a celebration will have to wait until the pandemic eases.
Fulton Lodge 248 of the Free and Accepted Masons, the oldest building in the village, was given the prestigious distinction Sept. 18 by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior. A proclamation was sent by Matt Huffman, president of the Ohio Senate, and Senate Majority Whip Rob McColley.
The three-story, Italian Renaissance Revival-style building at 401 Main St. has retained the majority of its original features over the decades. Eight-year Fulton Lodge 248 member and former master Craig Szczublewski said it’s the hope of the 71-person membership that the national historic registry will open doors to government grants to help the building retain its integrity.
“To do that from a financial standpoint is somewhat difficult,” he said. “Ideally, we would very much like to restore it back to the way that it was. But it’s a financial obligation to be able to do that.”
It was the quest for funding that prompted a suggestion to apply to the National Register for Historic Places. The process to be accepted on the department’s federal level began a year ago through Ohio’s historical society. It included providing examples of how Fulton Lodge 248 assisted the local community through difficult periods of history, such as during world wars.
Throughout the years, the lodge has invited the public to tour the facilities during festivals and other village events to give them a sense of the history.
“It’s a national piece, and a centerpiece within Delta,” Szczublewski said. “It’s the tallest building when you drive through. There’s nothing else quite like it there. Most people in Delta and the surrounding area didn’t know this building even existed or what was inside of it. It’s quite beautiful on the inside, quite ornate.”
Fulton Lodge 248 was granted its charter in 1854, and operated its first several years out of a residence. The membership purchased a lot in the village at what is now the intersection of Main and Lincoln streets, and built its original two-story Free and Accepted Masons headquarters for $7,500 – about $250,000 by today’s standards.
That wooden building was destroyed during a spectacular fire in 1892 that began in citizen John Holt’s livery barn and gutted most of Delta’s downtown area and some residences. The Masons commissioned a Toledo architect to help them replace it with a more fireproof building on the same spot, resulting in the dedication of the present building on June 28, 1894.
To help pay the mortgage, the Masons rented out the first floor to various retail businesses, a tradition that remains to this day. Over the ensuing years the space has held furniture companies, automotive parts dealers, churches, a karate studio, a bakery, and the current salon. The longest tenure was 45 years, held by the U.S. Post Office until it relocated to its current site in the 1980s.
Craig Miller, a junior steward of Fulton Lodge 248, was instrumental in having the lodge added to the national historic registry. He said it was a way to qualify for annual federal grants to finance building repairs.
“We’ll try to bring it back to its original glory. I feel it should stay as close to original as possible,” he said.
Contrary to longstanding beliefs, the Masons are not intended to be a secret society, Miller said. “Unless you were a Mason or a Mason’s wife or son you just basically didn’t come into the building. The general public has never been in the building unless they were invited by Masons,” he said.
He wants that to change, and said the lodge’s officers have discussed holding open houses and other events the public can attend. The installation of new officers has always been an open event but local publications stopped advertising them. And a weekly Saturday sausage and pancake breakfast held for the public in the 1970s and 1980s eventually ended.
“With COVID right now, there’s not a lot we can do,” Miller said.
The building still has its original light fixtures, punched tin ceilings, and woodwork, and a second-floor room holding artifacts dating back to 1854. “Virtually everything has remained the same,” Miller said. “Now (inclusion on the national registry) not only opens it up to the general public but opens it up to the four-county area.”
Szczublewski believes the lodge is one of only several structures in Fulton County on the National Register of Historic Places – including the Fulton County Courthouse – and among very few with the distinction in northwest Ohio. He said the membership has discussed replacing the roof and sealing the brick more efficiently but the roofing job alone has been estimated at between $20,000-$30,000. Szczublewski said while the Masons hope to take advantage of federal grants available to buildings on the national historic registry they don’t plan to do a modern update.
“We love the style of the building. We have no intention of changing it,” he said. “But, obviously, to keep its integrity and keep it weather-tight there are things we’ll need to be able to do with it.”
He said Fulton Lodge 248 would like to hold a large-scale dedication to celebrate its national status but that will have to wait until the pandemic subsides.
“Obviously, we take a lot of pride within the building itself. It’s very near and dear to a lot of our hearts as far as the architecture, and just the styling of it,” Szczublewski said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.