Bowling Green, Ind. —
Except for private homes, Bowling Green in Clay County will soon become a one-story community.
On Monday, demolition will begin to remove the 169-year-old Clay Lodge No. 85 F&AM (Free and Accepted Masons) along Indiana 46. The weathered, block structure is the lone remaining two-story building in Bowling Green, said Norman Keiser, a member of the Masonic Lodge.
“The lodge was organized in 1850. The building they met in was destroyed by fire, so this building was built in 1853,” Keiser said. “The top floor of this building was designed for the Masonic Lodge.
“The bottom part of the building has been a grocery store and part of it was a hardware store at one time,” he said.
Keiser said that over time the building “is just coming apart. It will cost more to repair the building than what it is worth. It will take a whole new roof.
“The front part of the building has a facade which is starting to separate, and the main floor downstairs is in bad shape. It has dry rotted and termites have gotten into it.”
“It was a matter of debating whether to put a lot of money into an old building or tear it down and put up a new one-story building. A lot of our members are now retired and stairs are not very good on them to get up and down,” Keiser said.
The building will be taken down “hand by hand” at a cost of $16,000, Keiser said. The work, expected to take three weeks, is being done by Tony Pingleton, a Bowling Green resident, who plans to salvage lumber, much of which is 2 inches thick, 12 inches wide and 24 feet long. Pingleton uses the lumber to restore old barns.
Pingleton restored a large red barn at Sycamore Farm, on Poplar Street on the east side of Terre Haute. The farm is a bed and breakfast, and the barn is used for events such as weddings and large family gatherings.
While cleaning out the Bowling Green building, membership records showed the lodge during the 1920s and 1930s had as many as 135 members. Now the all-male lodge has 38 members.
“Until three years ago, there was not much new interest in the lodge. But since then, we have several new younger members who joined the lodge,” Keiser said.
Many younger members will contribute to building a new lodge, a project Keiser said may take two to three years to complete. “The way the economy is now, they are members of the lodge, but it has taken everything that they have to support their family and keep their job. They can only contribute on weekends or evenings when they can,” he said.
Many of the new members, however, can provide plumbing, electrical and framing work, Keiser added.
The lodge holds a special place in Keiser’s life. At age 65, he is the youngest of three brothers, all members of the lodge. His oldest brother, Neal, 74, who resides in Medina, Texas, became a member in the early 1960s, before transferring his membership to Texas.
His other brother, Forrest, 68, is a 50-year member of the lodge. Their father, Howard Keiser, was a lodge member for at least 30 years. In addition, the Keiser’s had two uncles, Ross and John Strauch, who were also long-time members of the lodge.
“The building has been there forever, and I hate to see it go. Yet we are ready for a new building,” Keiser said.
Until a new masonic lodge is constructed, Bowling Green members will meet at Centennial Lodge No. 541 on Indiana 59, south of Brazil, he said.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.