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Officials at another downtown landmark also are making moves. The Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce building at 826 Ewing St., less than a mile from the Masonic Temple, is on the market for $950,000.
A month ago, Mac Parker, president of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce Foundation Inc., called its building “substantially larger than” what the business group needs.
At a glance
What: Fundraiser for the Masonic Temple
Where: Masonic Temple, 216 E. Washington Blvd.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 23
Cost: $125 per person
Information: 426-4728 or www.thefreemasonshall.com
Photos by Clint Keller | The Journal Gazette
From left, Paul Calloway, Scot Deckard, Dennis Weimer and Dave Groholski formed a group to run the Masonic Temple.

Masonic Temple reborn

Businessmen unite to fix up, increase use of historic hall

Building Management Group fixed up the temple’s interior and increased rentals of its facilities, such as the ballroom.

Four businessmen want to ensure the Masonic Temple continues to tower over downtown Fort Wayne’s skyline.

Just a few months ago, however, the 85-year-old historic landmark was on the verge of languishing. The situation prompted the four professionals to found Building Management Group of Fort Wayne.

David Groholski spearheaded the effort and is a financial adviser, so he laid out a business plan for the edifice, which had operated in the red.

Dennis Weimer and Scot Deckard used their expertise to improve the heating and cooling system and interior of the 10-story building at 216 E. Washington Blvd. Weimer owns Phenix Tubing Corp., and Deckard runs Deckard Mechanical.

Paul Calloway is a medical supply salesman and used his marketing experience to land bookings for the temple, which hosts weddings, receptions, business meetings and similar gatherings.

While their careers vary, their brotherhood is the same – they’re all Masons, the world’s largest and oldest brotherhood of men. Freemasonry’s roots derive from early stonemasons who organized to build temples in the Biblical lands and, later, large churches in Europe.

Building Management’s crusade resulted in several improvements at the Masonic Temple, not the least of which are monthly heating costs plummeting to $1,500 from as high as $11,000.

The temple also has 29 events lined up for this year, most notably a fundraiser in October.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Groholski, adding that most revenue comes from rentals and membership dues.

“Things were in disarray, but now we’re looking to make a profit this year. We just couldn’t let things go on the way they were.”

Kurt Begue, commander of the Masons’ York Rite branch, said he was amazed at what the Building Management Group accomplished so quickly. The volunteer band urged members of the fraternal organization to raise $50,000 for operation costs and repairs.

“They came in with a solid plan, and they didn’t come in saying, ‘Here’s what we think will work or maybe we can try this or that,’ ” he said. “They presented a bulletproof plan that has us on track for the next 20 years.”

Seven years ago, the Masons opened the temple’s doors for public use, to the delight of area preservationists. Many areas of the building are available for rent, including the ballroom, which seats more than 200 people.

The decision to host public events was born of necessity – the temple needed money. Membership had declined since the intensely private group’s heyday during the 1950s.

The Masonic Temple has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1991. That kind of distinction deserves preserving, Begue said.

“The place looks great,” he said. “With a building this large, you have to keep it maintained or it becomes a massive money pit.”

pwyche@jg.net

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