Renovations underway on Masonic Temple

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(Host) Renovations are underway at one of the Northeast Kingdom’s most prominent historic structures. The Masonic Temple in St. Johnsbury is an impressive three-story brick building that’s now in need of repair.

When the work is done, the landmark will serve as a community arts center. VPR’s Amy Noyes reports.

(Noyes) When St. Johnsbury’s Masonic Temple was built in 1912, it was the largest Masonic building in Vermont. Over the years, membership has fallen from over 700 to just a few dozen people. Building upkeep has proved to be daunting.

The renovation is a three-way effort, involving the Masons, Catamount Arts and students in the building trades program at St. Johnsbury Academy.

The Masons gave their hall to its neighbor, Catamount Arts, in exchange for perpetual use of the ceremonial third floor.

(Aldredge) “It’s truly a synergism, I think, of the needs of the organization and of the community.”

(Noyes) Catamount Arts Development Director Jerry Aldredge:

(Aldredge) “We’ve known for several years, that we were busting at the seams, here, and outgrown the building. And it’s no secret that we would like to find an expanded space. And so it will be a great stability-creating situation for both organizations. The Catamount can expand and grow; the Masons can continue to function and St. Johnsbury can really benefit from an expanded arts program. So it works for everybody.”

(Construction sounds)

(Noyes) Students in the building trades program at St. Johnsbury Academy are working as general contractors on the project. Instructor Roo Mold says it will take his students about a year-and-a-half to complete the renovations.

(Mold) “This is basically a complete gut of this building: removal of all electrical, mechanical, plumbing systems, and a change of floor plans, certainly, on both this floor and the upper floor to accommodate Catamount’s needs. A couple of movie theaters, offices, performance space, gallery and so on.”

(Noyes) Once the project is complete, St. Johnsbury will have an expanded arts center the Masons will have a permanent place to meet and students at St. Johnsbury Academy will have earned some valuable real-life experience.
(Noyes) Jerry Aldredge, of Catamount Arts says it’s a win-win situation.

(Aldredge) “The great benefit to Catamount is the fact that we’re saving some money. But we also are then offering the students an opportunity to work in one of the most beautiful, historically important buildings in St. Johnsbury. And they’re very excited about that aspect of the project.”

(Noyes) Despite significant savings, the new facility will come at considerable expense to Catamount Arts.

The organization must raise $1.3 million to complete the project.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Amy Noyes.

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