Walls come tumbling down

Top: By mid-afternoon Thursday, one third of the Tracy Masonic Temple building had been turned into a pile of rubble. Middle: Just one corner was still standing shortly before 9 p.m.

Decayed Masonic Temple was once one of Tracy’s finest buildings

By Seth Schmidt

The landmark Tracy Masonic Temple building is no more.
The massive brick and stone building was reduced to rubble Thursday, after anchoring the northwest corner of Morgan and Third streets for 91 years.
An edifice that took craftsmen five months to build in 1926 was obliterated in less than nine hours. The first bricks began falling on the structure’s west side at about 12:30 p.m.  The last-standing east wall succumbed shortly after 9 p.m. as the sun dipped below Tracy’s western horizon.
Onlookers gathered early to watch the once proud structure meet its fate. Many remembered the multi-level building’s days as one of Tracy’s finest structures; home to a busy medical and dental clinic, a large Masonic Lodge, and prosperous storefronts.
“When I was a kid that building was the absolute hub of the community,” reflected 1969 THS grad Doug Pamp.
“It’s a sad day,” reflected Clayton Campbell, who remembered being treated by Dr. Warner Workman at the clinic in the 1950s.   “It’s another sign of our throwaway society. In Europe, they keep up their old buildings and use them for hundreds of years. We can’t seem to do that.”
Tony Peterson, a city councilman and a Tracy native, felt the city had no choice to raze the badly deteriorated building.

Vacant & run-down
The 50×110-foot building had sat vacant for about 10 years. By the time a decision was made to demolish the structure, the building had a leaking roof, extensive interior water damage, a moldy interior, and many boarded up windows.  Pigeons had made roosts in portions of its cavernous interior.
The Tracy Economic Development Authority and the City of Tracy acquired the tax-forfeit real estate in early 2013, hoping someone would emerge to redevelop the building.  At least one party seriously looked at the building, with an eye for converting the structure into rental housing, but ultimately concluded that the project wasn’t economically feasible.
By March 2014, when Wheels Across the Prairie Museum volunteers were given permission to salvage fixtures and artifacts for the museum, moisture from the leaking roof had already reached into the basement.
This spring, the Tracy City Council awarded Noomen Excavating of Currie a $54,950 contract to raze the Masonic structure, plus the adjacent VAST Communications/KMHL building.
The KMHL building, which most recently housed Kyleen Olson Photography, was acquired for $8,000 by the EDA because it would have been too costly to protect during the Masonic demolition. The KMHL building was razed Wednesday evening.
The city’s expenses for Masonic demolition, including asbestos removal and all necessary permits, stand at about $81,000.


For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.