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Milltown Masons getting new home

July 16, 2008
It's been a long time coming, but the Milltown Masons may soon have a new roof over their heads, and a building the entire community can be proud of, thanks to the hard work of a handful of volunteers and the generosity of the town.

The Milltown Lodge, for the past 75 years, has occupied the second floor of a building known as the Watson-Proctor Hardware Store Building in the downtown area. The building, located in the flood plain, deteriorated through the years and the cost of a new roof alone could have been more than the building was worth. And stairs leading to the second floor made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for older members of the lodge to attend functions there.

Wayne Allen works on the roof of the new Masonic Lodge being built in Milltown. The building, which will replace one used for 75 years, is being constructed by volunteer members of the lodge. There will be fundraisers to help with the costs of construction in coming weeks, including a golf scramble at Old English Golf Course on Saturday at 9 a.m. (Lee Cable)
The building was going to be sold recently, and the lodge, which owned only the second floor, decided to sell their part for $10,000. The town owns some land behind the police department building on Hancock Street and agreed to give the lodge a 75-year renewable lease on the property for $1. On May 2, the lodge broke ground on the new project and began construction.

"We hired someone to lay the concrete blocks for the foundation," Jack Cook, a lodge member and past master, said. "Once that was done, we started working on the rest of the building ourselves."

Cook and another lodge member, Wayne Allen, have experience in the construction business and spearheaded the project, including designing the building. Other members, like Benny Allen and four other members of the Allen family, have volunteered their time and work to help with the project. Several members of the Marengo Lodge helped set trusses on the building. Bob Crecelius stops by every day and offers a dose of constructive criticism and entertainment for the workers.

"We've talked about this for 20 years," Cook said. "The old building was in such bad shape, and it was time to build a new one. Three years ago, we started raising money for the project. The new building will cost us about $65,000 to build, but it will have a market value of about $200,000 when it's finished."

The building will be 96 feet long and 36 feet wide and will include a 36-foot-by-36-foot meeting room that the community may make arrangements to use. It will also be handicap accessible.

"But we still need help with funding," Cook said. "We've had donations from other lodges. The lodge in Poseyville gave us some money, and the oldest lodge in the state, at Vincennes, also donated. We appreciate any donations we get. On July 19, we're going to have a golf scramble at the Old English Golf Course at 9 a.m., and later this summer we'll have a chicken barbecue. We hope to raise more funds from those events. And we hope to have an open house with a meal and dedication around Sept. 1. The Grand Master of the Indiana Masonic Lodges will be here for that event."

The lodge will also be selling engraved memorial bricks that will be used in the porch of the building.

"People buying the bricks can have someone's name on them, like 'In Memory Of',' " Cook said. "The names or messages will be blasted into the bricks by Scott Dubois, and they will be placed in the porch when we finish it."

The Milltown Lodge (No. 661) has 110 members. During World War II, 45 members of the lodge served in the war, and three of those were killed in action.

"I had six brothers," Crecelius said. "Five of them were lodge members here. And my sisters all belonged to the Eastern Star. At one time, there were three doctors in Milltown, and all of them were members of this lodge."

The lodge plans to rework most of the furniture from the old building, and move it to the new location. Most of the furniture dates back to the lodge's beginning.

"We're really thankful for all the cooperation we've gotten from the town," Wayne Allen said. "(Town Manager) Jim Pevlor, (Chief Marshal) Ray Saylor and the town board have given us a lot of help and encouragement. And the neighbors have been keeping an eye on the building for us. We just can't thank the town enough."

For more information about the memorial brick program or to make a donation to the building project, call Cook at 633-7833. For more information about the golf scramble on Saturday, call Matt Poe at 633-4468 or Steve Wheeler at 1-812-989-1194.

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