Editorial: 104-year-old Masonic Lodge building in Dalton deserves to be saved

While driving past the two-story brick building at the corner of Hamilton and Emery streets in Dalton, you may have wondered what it was in its previous lives.

A sign hanging of the north side of the building tells part of the story: "Dalton Lodge #238 F&A.M. (PHA) 2nd & 4th Friday" and "OES Dalton Chapter #230 (PHA) 1st & 3rd Monday."

The building was most recently the meeting place for two chapters of Masons. The building has sat empty, with no meetings held there, for the better part of 20 years.

On Wednesday, the two-story brick building built in 1915 was named to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's "Places in Peril" list. The Atlanta-based nonprofit compiles the list of dilapidated historic buildings throughout the state each year. The goal is to raise awareness about the structures and hopefully spur governments, businesses, community groups and/or citizens to save the buildings.

The Dalton Masonic Lodge has fallen into disrepair through the years. Photographs of the interior show the damage: a partially caved-in second floor, peeling paint, holes in the ceiling, boarded up windows, etc.

In another life, the building was the center of business for African Americans in Dalton.

According to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation: "Masonic Lodge No. 238 stands at what was once a thriving commercial intersection at the heart of Dalton's African American community. Featuring distinctive details, the lodge, built in 1915, offered commercial space on the ground floor while the second floor served as the Masonic meeting hall for African American members. The lodge formed a vital part of the fabric of a small but vibrant community that included a doctor's office, a beauty shop, a funeral parlor and school."

We are hopeful the building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, can be saved. It is a rich part of our history, and highlights the contributions of the African American community to Dalton.

We aren't certain what the next steps are, but restoring the Masonic Lodge to its former glory could serve generations to come as part of the building's next life.

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