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Masons move into new building

BEMIDJI -- The process of moving Bemidji Masonic Lodge 233 from its former temple downtown to a newly bought building on the south end of Bemidji is in full swing, member Dick Labraaten said Friday.

Labraaten said the Masons have met informally in the new building -- a former Tae Kwon Do school -- but they're waiting for all of their Masonic memorabilia to come over before they hold an official meeting.

The Masons were forced to move out of their former temple, more than 90 years old, after leaking pipes this past winter caused water damage too expensive for the group to repair.

About seven to eight parties have expressed interest in buying the old temple since it was put on the market, Labraaten said, most of which plan to keep the building intact. However, there is a possibility that the lodge may be razed and the space turned into parking, he said.

Labraaten said people can't help but compare the situation confronting the Masons' old temple with the plight of the Carnegie Library -- another century-old building across the street that locals hope to save and move back from Bemidji Avenue.

"(With) the money they've raised for the Carnegie Library, they could buy (the old temple) and do a heck of a remodeling on it," he said.

Labraaten has heard rumors of a fundraising campaign possibly starting in the future to save the old Masonic building, but nothing definite, he said.

"I haven't run into anything official yet," Labraaten said. "I've heard some undertones that... maybe we should take a good look at that."

He doesn't want to compete with the Save the Carnegie campaign, however.

"It would be nice to save both of them... but reality is reality," he said.

The old temple, which has showers and ample space inside, could serve well as a homeless shelter, Labraaten said, an idea that was floated earlier this week at the meeting of the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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