Masonic Temple

Sanford Lodge 151
A postcard of Cole’s Pharmacy at the Masonic Temple (circa 1930s)

In downtown Sanford, North Carolina, a massive brick building sits on the corner of Carthage and North Steele streets. Constructed in 1924, the historic Masonic Temple is a three-story blond brick structure featuring granite pilasters rising to a horizontal band above the second floor windows with four raised medallions bearing the Masonic symbol. A recessed entry with granite lintel bears the name “Masonic Temple” and is flanked by two copper sconce lights. Mosaic glass tile were used in the floor of the entryway to allow light to reach the underground coal chute. The first floor was used as retail space, the second for offices, while the top floor is the lodge hall.

The history of the lodge dates back to the 19th century. In 1853, the Chalmers Lodge in the nearby community of Carbonton merged with McCormick Lodge 228 and moved to Sanford to become Sanford Lodge 151. The fraternal organization of freemasons purchased the land on which the building now stands in 1924 from Sanford Baptist Church for $34,000. The building’s cornerstone recognizes the leader of the society at that time, Grand Master James LeGrand Everett.

Sanford Lodge 151

A 1927 article from the Raleigh News and Observer describes it as one of the best-equipped Masonic Temples in this section of the state. Remnants of the past can still be seen throughout the building. After descending the antique stairwell, the top floor opens up to the old lodge meeting hall. On each side of the meeting hall are three-tiered platforms and in the middle is an elevated center stage flanked by large columns that give the overall space a sense of grandeur.

Clues to the building’s past are scattered throughout its rooms. When the lodge moved out in the 1980s, a rotation of locally-owned businesses moved into several of the offices, however, most of the historic building remained abandoned and untouched. Throughout the years, the building has also been used for offices by the city, an insurance company, and the Temple Theater. In the 1930s, the Masonic Temple housed Cole’s Pharmacy, a classic early 20th century corner store with a soda fountain. In the 1990s, the lodge was home to a dance studio, shoe store, and design firm. Currently, Nunnery’s Shoe Shop occupies the basement level and has been there since the building first opened.

The Masonic Lodge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 as a contributing property to the Downtown Sanford Historic District. In December 2020, Owls Nest Properties, a real estate investment company purchased the historic Sanford Lodge 151 for $375,000. Now in a state of disrepair, the group plans to renovate the building and convert the two top floors into nine apartments, while the bottom floor will remain retail space. One side of the first floor will be marketplace space for small start-up businesses. Also included in the plans is an underground speakeasy. The owners would like to recreate a historically accurate representation from the Prohibition era. Almost all of the commercial space has already been rented.

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151
One of the most interesting features of the upstairs meeting hall is this lever on the wall for dimming the lights.
Sanford Lodge 151
A small room off of the meeting hall houses a small bathroom and wardrobe closet where the Masons kept their regalia. Above the sink, the circular object is a part of the electrical system. I am told the round disc connects the wiring for the lights in the meeting hall, when the lever is turned, the lights would dim.
Sanford Lodge 151
A 19th century piano rests against the wall on the top floor of the Masonic Temple.

Masonic Temple

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151
The centerpiece of the Masonic Temple is the grand stairwell, with heavy wooden pillars and the original wooden steps protected beneath coverings.

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Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151

Sanford Lodge 151

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Sanford Lodge 151

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Sanford Lodge 151
Before the days of central air and heating, an original coal chute in the basement fed radiators throughout the building, keeping the building warm during the winter months.

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6 comments

  1. I so enjoy your blogs. Often sad to read of the state of a building or home but the one today about the Masonic Temple is more uplifting. I certainly hope the investors carry-through with their plans for renovation and use of the beautiful building. I would love to see it in person; a few miles from South Texas!

    Like

  2. The Sanford NC Masonic Temple has been purchased by Owls Nest Properties and is being renovated to include apartments and business tenants. Also included in the plan is to renovate part of the basement into a “speakeasy” styled bar.

    As of August 2021 demolition work has started, and soon new construction will begin.

    It’s very exciting news that this key building in Sanford’s downtown is being saved and brought back to life!

    https://www.facebook.com/OwlsNestProperties

    https://www.owlsnestproperties.com/

    Liked by 1 person

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