By: Steven Falitico
The Masonic Temple building on the corner of Main and Center in Batavia is a hidden gem of Genesee County, NY.
For anybody that doesn’t know about this hidden gem of a building- don’t worry, you are not the only one.
For someone that has lived in Genesee County my whole life I was not aware of this treasure of a building in Downtown Batavia until I was exposed to it on a tour with Leadership Genesee.
Located at the corner of Main Street and Center Street, the massive red brick structure is both stunning from the outside and the inside.
Built by the Batavia Masons in 1908, The Masonic Temple building was home to Masonic Lodge 475 for over 100 years. With carved wood fixtures, handcrafted door handles, a breathtaking great hall, and a broad staircase leading to the upper levels, there is an essence of quality craftmanship throughout this building. It is a welcomed piece of architectural accomplishment for Batavia and its Main Street.
Freemasons or masons are a fraternal organization that traces its origins back to guilds of stonemasons and skilled builders in the Middle Ages. They are the oldest fraternal organization in the world with their initial focus being cathedral building. Now, the organization has shifted to a much more social and philanthropic approach.
The group has been made famous for rumors of secret passwords and rituals within their lore that traces back through generations. The mystery, speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding the organization have made them a constant inspiration for story-writing in Hollywood, being featured in movies like “National Treasure” and “The DaVinci Code”.
Many powerful and influential people of American history have been associated with the group, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, FDR and Gerald Ford.
However, the influence of the organization extends further beyond politics. Famous actors like John Wayne, Richard Pryor, and Mel Blanc have also been linked to the brotherhood.
That’s right- The Father of This Country, The Duke AND Daffy Duck were all freemasons… (among many others.)
When you walk into the Masonic Temple today you still very much feel the spirit of its craftsmanship from 1905. The pillars surrounding the entrance feel more like walking into an Indiana Jones movie then into a building on Main St.
Some features you may notice are the broad staircase with decorative rails, the copper ceiling tiles, the masonic branded bronze door knobs, the wooden accents around the doors, and how unique the renovated office spaces are.
If you really want to experience the grandeur of this building you have to see the third floor, which currently houses Blue Pearl Yoga. As you walk through the double doors into the hall you get that sense of awe you get in historical buildings. Theatre seats line each side of the large wooden floor leading to a stage carved with designs and artwork of masonic origin. The high vaulted ceilings are lighted by chandeliers that are helped with up-lighting from antique sconces arranged on either side.
This massive arena of masonic lore is hidden conspicuously in this building and surprisingly in Downtown Batavia. If you’re in the market to rent a unique space with a feel of elegance for any event or recital, this is a great option.
David Howe, owner of Charles Men’s Shop, purchased the building in 1995 and currently still has a storefront there today. He allowed the masons to occupy the space on the third floor rent free for fifteen years before the break-down of the lodge due to low membership.
Since then, Dave has utilized the building further by creating spaces made available to small business owners to lease. Nothing on this building is standard and everything has to be cut-to-fit, so the renovations have been interesting. A recent project was a masonry re-pointing of the building due to its shifting over the years- the Masonic Temple needed a mason.
Dave has found some very interesting things throughout the historic building. Specifically in the attic he has found many pieces of masonic lore and a really beautiful old organ. Although rumors are out there, he has not found any bodies. <- seriously read this article.
The really cool thing for me about this building is the use of the space for local businesses. Along with storefronts on Main St, they get one heck of a view of Batavia and get to experience the vibe of being in Downtown.
Antonio Falleti Personal Training
Charles Men’s Shop
My Cut Barbershop
Thomas A Burns, Attorney
The City of Batavia has seen many changes to its buildings and infrastructure over the course of history. Yet the influence of classic architecture can still be felt within the city’s bones. With re-imagined buildings like the former JJ Newberry’s (now Eli Fish Brewing), The Bank of Genesee (now Hunt Real Estate), Seymour Place (now GOART!), and The Masonic Temple- this section of Main St Batavia is loaded with historical buildings that still have the elegance and class of their respected time periods.
Take a trip through time and experience the buildings for yourself in Downtown Batavia!