NEW MADISON — The Fort Black Masonic Lodge, in New Madison, has a new owner.
Whitestone Development, Inc. (WDI) of Kettering, Ohio, purchased the building last month. WDI President Charles Reynolds wants to promote the economic development of New Madison. He owns a nearby farm and likes the village. The lodge has supported many masonic and community charities over the past 80 years, and Reynolds wants to follow suit.
“Most people have never been through this building” he said. “I want people to come in and meet this new guy who bought it. I am not sure what I want to do with it, but I want this historic structure to somehow, someway, benefit the people of New Madison.”
According to Reynolds’ research, in 1904 the Knights of Pythias built the two story hall, measuring 42 feet x 80 feet. Local farm members, with horse and wagon teams hauled stones — some farms being over a mile away — to the building site for use in the lodge’s foundation. The basement was used to serve suppers and various other kinds of activities, he said.
The first floor served as an opera house, having a stage on which Eddie Cantor once performed. The plaster walls behind the stage contain hundreds of performers’ autographs — names of locals that attended school in New Madison. The Masons had their meetings on the second floor. The basement was used for general storage, Reynolds explained.
As a retired architect, Reynolds defines the architectural style as Academic-Classical Revival. His civil engineer stated the building was in excellent structural condition, given its 112 years of age. He has been cleaning up the place, in the hopes that the building can serve the New Madison community in some way. The amenities include a very large fully-equipped kitchen, an elevator, a projection room, two gas furnaces and four restrooms.
Asking community members for ideas, some suggestions include: an antique mall, a bakery, a community activities space, a fellowship hall, a bingo/game space an art gallery and an event room.
“All of these ideas are under consideration,” he said.
Additionally, Reynolds has contacted three local churches to determine any interest in using the first floor for outreach programs. One church has responded. In an effort to garner more ideas, Reynolds invites the people of New Madison to a “Meet and Greet” and the opportunity to take guided tours through the building. He typically is in the building on Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. meeting with sub-contractors and for cleaning and maintenance.
Reynolds is very happy being the third owner of the building.
“I feel blessed to own it,” he said. “I am the new kid on the block, who truly hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of those living in and around New Madison.”
Any groups interested in renting the first floor of the building can contact Reynolds, at 937-293-9553, or visit any Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The building is located at 118 E. Washington Street, in New Madison.