A Fraternity Dedicated to Tradition and Service
John Vollmann is a third-generation St. Louis Freemason. When he first became involved in 1992, he was excited by the organization’s local history. A cursory review of St. Louis’s Masons brings up a broad range of well-known names:
- Merriweather Lewis
- William Clark
- Charles Lindbergh
- Harry S. Truman
- Ernest Borgnine
Vollmann, now president of the St. Louis Masonic Temple Association, took pride in helping to care for the landmark building that served as the Masons regional home since 1926. The building at 3681 Lindell housed several historic artifacts as well, including beautiful marble features, handcrafted Emil Frei windows, and papers from President Truman.
The Masonic Temple serves as a meeting space for several local Masonic organizations. During the 1920s, there were 50 to 70 such groups. Over time, however, many of these groups have merged and there are fewer than 40. At 386,000 square feet, the Temple was far too large for their current needs.
Additionally, over the years, Masons who met at the temple had moved both south and west of the city. Their current location was no longer convenient to their membership.
The building itself required constant maintenance and updates. The financial strain of the work put them in direct conflict with their mission, which includes “social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.”
They were looking for a way to stop sinking money into an old building and increase their ability to give back. As beautiful as the structure is — and as intertwined with the organization’s history as it had become — it was no longer meeting the needs of the region’s Masons.
Martin was able to negotiate a rentback agreement from Brandonview for a short time. However, they would eventually need to move all of their artifacts into storage and find alternative ways to meet.
Together, Vollmann and Martin went looking for a new Temple for St. Louis’s Masons, not wanting their membership to be without a home for long.
The Search for an Institutional Building in West St. Louis County
Though the Masons no longer needed a building quite as large as their old one, they still required a building with approximately 30,000 square feet of space. The layout had to include four main rooms:
- A meeting room for individual Masonic bodies with ceilings at least 15-feet high and no columns.
- A ceremonial room for the Ascalon Commandery with ceilings at least 25-feet high and no columns. (The walls needed enough space to install their stained-glass windows.)
- A dining hall.
- A collections room (to display their collection of artifacts).
As Martin and Vollmann toured available buildings, they were disappointed over and over again. Warehouses, which had tall ceilings and lots of open space, would always have columns that would require too much expense to remove.
Offices, though they may have the non-columned horizontal room, would not meet their height requirements.
There was another difficulty for the Masons. Their old building was beautiful and grandiose. The Temple needed a touch of the dramatic to completely serve the needs of the organization well. They hoped to find something that could lend itself to their sense of history and pageantry.
Finding a St. Louis Area Church Building for Sale
After three years of searching, Vollmann was driving down Clayton Road in Clarkson Valley. He was surprised to see a sizeable former church for sale. Constructed as Ellisville United Methodist, the building had been the home of Midwest Music and Electronic Services for several years and was not registered with commercial real estate data bases.
No longer optimized as a church, the building was divided into a showroom, a concert hall, and classrooms. However, the building featured a former chapel and former sanctuary that met the Mason’s requirements: large, high-ceilinged rooms with no columns.
Though the building was by no means perfect, Vollmann and his fellow Masons saw possibilities. Since it is cut up for classrooms, many rooms would have to be combined to make it work. Significant renovations would be required, but they believed they could deliver all updates and changes to the building on-budget.
At just under 30,000 square feet, the new building is the right size for the needs of the organization. The original asking price was $1,795,000.00.
Martin learned that a negotiated sale price would require the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and advised the Masonic Lodge Temple Association through the negotiation process. The contract provided multiple purchaser contingencies protecting the Masons.
Upon completion of due diligence, Martin and the Masonic Lodge Temple Association further negotiated with the seller’s broker (TB Realty and Development) for an ultimate sale price of just over $1.5 Million.
- Buyer: Masonic Temple Association of St. Louis, represented by Scott Martin of Hilliker Corporation
- Seller: Midwest Music Electronic Services, Inc., represented by TB Realty and Development
- Address: 15977 Clayton Road in Clarkson Valley
- Sale Price: $1,555,000.00
- Square Footage: 27,416 square foot building on 3.89 acres
Vollmann enjoyed his partnership with Martin throughout their search. “We gave Scott a tall order, but he knows his business. Very knowledgeable.”
The Masonic Temple Association board members are in the final stages of choosing contractors and architects. The building will not be ready for ceremonies for quite some time. But when it is, it will contain all the marble features, historical artifacts, and Emil Frei stained glass windows once housed in the former building.
Additionally, some of the organization’s historical artifacts will be on display and viewable by members of the public.
In the end, a better location and lower maintenance cost will provide St. Louis’s Masons the ability to achieve their desired goals for the benefit of their members and the community.
Working Together for the Welfare of Our Region
When St. Louis institutions—both religious and secular—need to find new real estate, they deserve an advocate who will fight for their needs. Their requirements may or may not be the same as the typical business, office, or manufacturer. However, they are just as vital to the ongoing health of our community.
If you represent:
- A non-profit
- Health care organization
- Or school …
… you can call Hilliker. We respect who you are and will work with you to find the right place for you and those you serve.