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State of Tennessee: Stop the demolition of Nashville's Historic Masons' Buildings

This petition had 1,543 supporters


Governor Bill Haslam's 2016 budget includes $1.5 million allocated for the demolition of two state-owned Masons' buildings, located at R.S. Gass Boulevard and Hart Lane in Nashville. Originally known as the "Home for Aged Masons," the complex includes two historic institutional buildings that the State purchased in 1941 for use as a tuberculosis hospital. The State abandoned the Masonic complex in the 1990s and allowed the Colonial Revival-style limestone buildings to fall into a state of disrepair. Located in East Nashville's Inglewood neighborhood, the complex includes the three-story 1913 Home for Aged Masons and the two-story 1915 Masonic Boy's School. These are the only surviving buildings from a larger Masons' complex dating to the early twentieth century, when the Tennessee Freemasons provided buildings to house widows, orphans, and the aged in the Masonic "family."

The Masonic buildings were designed by the Nashville architectural firm of Asmus & Norton, operated by Christian Albert Asmus and George C. Norton. A German immigrant educated at the University of Leipzig, Asmus practiced in Nashville from 1888-1954 and along with various partners was responsible for the design of many notable landmarks, such as the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Nashville Bank & Trust, Masonic Temple, and the Bennie Dillion Building. Norton was a Georgia native and graduate of MIT. 

In 2008, the Metro Historical Commission nominated the "Home for Aged Masons" to the National Register of Historic Places.  The Tennessee Historical Commission determined that the Masonic Boy's School is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic Nashville included both of the Masons' buildings on its 2009 Nashville Nine list of the city's most endangered historic places, and has been advocating for their preservation ever since.

Enacted in 1988, Tennessee Public Law 699 requires that state agencies provide the Tennessee Historical Commission the opportunity to review and comment on any project that might demolish or alter a state-owned historic property. 

Since learning that the State of Tennessee has allocated $1.5 million to demolish these two historic Masonic School buildings, local and state elected officials have initiated a movement to save the landmarks from demolition. These elected officials have asked that the State instead use the funds for stabilization and abatement and to explore a private public partnership for adaptive reuse of the buildings. A successful example of this type of scenario would be the historic Ben West Library, an endangered civic landmark that was recently acquired by the Tennessee Education Association from Metro Nashville for adaptive reuse as its offices and for educational purposes.

Historic Nashville fully endorses this effort and requests the State to not demolish these two century-old historic buildings, which are architecturally significant and important to Tennessee's history. Nashville's historic Masons' buildings are unique and should be preserved, not demolished. We intend to hand deliver this petition to the Tennessee State Building Commission at their next meeting to be held on June 9. Please sign by June 8. 

For more information about the effort to save Nashville's historic Masonic buildings, go to  http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2016/05/11/officials-hope-save-inglewoods-historic-masonic-buildings/84185288/



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