Faribault’s Masonic Lodge, one of the oldest in the state is preparing to undergo major changes after 140 years downtown.
The Masons have sold their building on Central Avenue and Third Street NW to Todd Nelson, a Faribault electrician who owns several other downtown buildings. But before the Masons can move out, they had plenty of cleaning to do — so they reached out to several local nonprofits to help them.
What hasn’t been set aside for the lodge’s future site or otherwise claimed goes up for sale from 3-6:30 p.m. on Sunday. The sale is open to the public and included some of the Lodge’s Historic artifacts. Everything on the second floor of the lodge that’s not marked with Masonic symbols will be available for the right price.
Rice County Historical Society Director Sue Garwood said the Historical Society was grateful to be invited to help look through the lodge earlier this week and take various historical artifacts. She said the Historical Society found numerous historical gems, including meeting minutes from the 1850s.
“We’re so grateful, because we can only collect things given to us,” Garwood said. “Thanks to generous organizations like the Masons, we’re able to preserve important pieces of Rice County history.”
The Masons also invited the Paradise Center for the Arts to stop by and take any items that might be useful to it. Paradise volunteers were able to take several dozen folding chairs from the Masonic Lodge.
The chairs will come as a welcome replacement for Paradise’s old chairs. Paradise Board Member Peter van Sluis encouraged area residents to come down to the Lodge and check out some of the other interesting items up for sale.
“It’s amazing what they have there,” said van Sluis. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s 100 years old, from typewriters and cabinets to clothing and furniture.”
Faribault’s Masonic Lodge was incorporated in 1856, as Minnesota’s Lodge No. 9. The group moved into the spacious building at 230 C Ave N in 1875, and has had its headquarters in the second and third floor of the building ever since.
Like many service organizations, the Masons have seen their numbers decline drastically, with membership rolls falling from nearly 300 around the turn of the century to roughly 60 now. Still, the decision to leave its longtime home didn’t come lightly or easily to the group’s membership.
After years of going back and forth, the Masons finally decided to put the building up for sale earlier this year. The Masons are now working with another building owner in town and hope to move into a much smaller space (around 5,000 square feet) soon.
Mason Jonathan Wood, who owns a construction business, worked hard to maintain the building. He said that with far less building space to maintain, the Masons look forward to being able to focus on Masonry and their work in the community.
Nelson, the property’s new owner, said that the upper two floors of the building will be converted into eight apartments, which he hopes to begin leasing in the spring. As for the Pawn Shop and Somali store on the first floor, they’ll stay in place.
With a vacancy rate of less than 1%, Faribault is in significant need of more housing. The City Council has particularly sought to increase the amount of available downtown housing, with two major apartment projects in the works and others still under discussion.
Wood said the Masons are happy to have sold the Lodge to a local developer with a solid vision and resources to achieve it. Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism President Nort Johnson said that local businesses are also excited to welcome new residents to downtown.
“Additional housing in the (downtown Historic) district helps to bolster local businesses,” Johnson said. “It’s easy to walk out the door and get groceries, go out to eat or get your insurance or legal needs met if you live in downtown Faribault.”