Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
At first, it was a stately anchor of Vallejo’s civic life. Then, for years, it served as a dilapidated symbol of its blight. Now, the Vallejo Masonic Temple is ground zero for the city’s urban revitalization efforts.
The four-story Neoclassical building is now home to 29 affordable housing units, plus a shared art gallery and retail space, the result of a $12 million renovation undertaken in 2014. Dubbed the Temple Art Lofts, the former temple sits beside the old Empress Theatre and Odd Fellows Hall, which has been similarly transformed into a gallery and performance space for the suddenly desirable city’s burgeoning creative class. (This spring, Vallejo was the third-hottest real estate market in the country.)
Hints of the building’s Masonic past remain visible throughout. Just inside the front door, a checkerboard floor and square and compass leave no doubt regarding its fraternal history. The arching windows and pilasters remain intact, as does the enormous third-floor hall.
Originally constructed in 1918 at a cost of $130,000, the temple was designed by Masonic architect John Davis Hatch. Hatch, a member of Brooklyn Lodge No. 225 in East Oakland, was also responsible for designing King David’s Temple in San Luis Obispo (1913) and the Modesto Masonic Temple (1917). Naval Lodge No. 87 initially occupied the Vallejo temple, which in 1927 also took over the circa-1872 City Hall building next door. By the 1970s, though, the lodge and two others sharing the space had decamped for the new Springbrook Masonic Temple in the hills above town.
By 2009, a year after Vallejo declared bankruptcy, the temple had been permanently abandoned. A year later, the city approved the art-loft conversion, and today the former Masonic temple lives on as a home to a new generation of Bay Area artists.
Courtesy of Domus Development