Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Price Hill Masonic Lodge

- The Price Hill Masonic Lodge's main stage. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

Some of Cincinnati's most iconic buildings were designed by famed local architecht Samuel Hannaford and his Sons: City Hall, Music Hall and the Observatory are a few. In the city's East Price Hill neighborhood, a stoic Hannaford designed structure sits at the corner with hopes that it could see prominence once again.

- The Masonic Lodge at the corner of Price and Purcell Ave.  Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

Cameron and I had the opportunity last summer to see inside the Masonic Lodge thanks to Pamela Taylor of Price Hill Will. The building's windows have been bricked over, it's windows boarded up and for years the interior has been left to wither away.

- The main auditorium. Photograph by: Cameron Knight

Once inside, after your eyes adjust to the darkness, it's clear just how grand this building is. Built in 1911, the building served as a Masonic Lodge for 77 years. For nearly a quarter of a century, the building deteriorated until it was stabilized and listed as a local landmark in 2011. When these photographs were made in 2014, local community organization Price Hill Will had signed an agreement to purchase the building. As of this writing, Price Hill Will currently owns the building and is following a plan for its revitalization.

- Bar in the main auditorium. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

Samuel Hannaford had partnered with his boys, Harvey and Charles to form Samuel Hannaford and Sons. Their company was responsible for creating buildings all across the Queen City. Their legacy includes some of the city's most iconic structures. From City Hall to the Eden Park Park Water Tower to the Times-Star building and even Music Hall - Hannaford and Sons had their stamp on much of the city's building stock. The Price Hill Masonic Lodge was no exception, another symbol of the firm's craftsmanship and attention to detail and one of four Masonic lodges they designed in Cincinnati.

Samuel Hannaford and Sons ceased to exist in the early 1960's.

- Rubble and peeling paint on the floor of the main auditorium. Photograph by: Cameron Knight

The Masons left the Price Hill lodge to merge with the North Bend chapter in 1989. The chapter now operates out of a less architecturally significant building in nearby Cleves. In the years between the Masons and Price Hill Will, things had deteriorated rapidly.

- The collapsed staircase. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

The main staircase has completely collapsed, paint peels on nearly every wall and broken windows have allowed the weather to make its way in.

- Office and hallway in the back. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Light fixture. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

Floorboards and tile have warped, but in some areas the small details still shine through. Scattered about, there's quite a few remnants of the previous Masonic tenants.

- Warping tile and rear staircase. Photograph by: Cameron Knight

- Rubble amongst the carpet. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Nursery. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Nursery Wallpaper. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Upstairs room. Photograph by: Cameron Knight.

On the second floor, there's another auditorium that's sitting directly above the main one.

- Upper auditorium. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

The roof of the auditorium still features the Masonic symbol in it's stained glass as well as the pipes of a since removed organ.

- Stained glass above the auditorium. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Organ pipes. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Hallway outside the upper auditorium. Photograph by: Cameron Knight

In one room, old clothes still hang in a closet.

- Closet. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

In another, an empty safe left behind by the Masons sits against the wall.

- Safe left behind by the Freemasons. Photograph by: Cameron Knight

The basement is filled with all kinds of things: tools, chairs, fire extinguishers (vintage and new), clothes, boxes and even old Freemason signs amongst the rubble.

- The basement. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Main auditorium. Photograph by: Cameron Knight, black and white film shot on a Fuji GW690ii

While touring the upper floors we heard voices coming from the main hall. Downstairs we found members of the Cincinnati Fire Department who noticed that the building's front door was open. They stopped by to check in.

- A visit from the CFD. Pamela Taylor of Price Hill Will at the center. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

Price Hill Will's goal is to breathe new life into the building. The local non-profit has been active in community, social and revitalization efforts of the city's East, West and Lower Price Hill neighborhoods. The ultimate plan is to turn the space into their new offices as well as a venue for receptions, meetings, weddings, theatre and art events.

- Outside building details. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Ivy growing on the building. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Building detail showing the symbol of the Freemasons. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

- Front of the building and main entrance. Photograph by: Ronny Salerno

The building sits on a neighborhood corner, it's imposing structure towering over the nearby houses. Just a few blocks away from the new development of the Incline Distrcit, the Masonic Lodge may one day become a cornerstone of the community.

- Rendering showing a revitalized building. Image provided by Price Hill Will.

Update | Oct. 22, 2017:


  1. Where are/were the other 3 lodges Hannaford and Sons designed?

    1. According to this website:

      Samuel Hannaford and Sons designed the Yeatman Masonic Lodge, the Avondale Masonic Lodge and the Cheviot Masonic Lodge and it looks like I missed one: the Hoffner Masonic Lodge in Northside.

      So in total, including the Price Hill one seen here, he designed five.

  2. 1. Price Hill was and is largely a neighborhood of Catholics.
    2. Free Masons hated Catholics.
    3. Spirits Linger.

    Therefore, it is not in the best interests of Price Hill to rebuild this temple devoted to hatred of local citizens.

    Anyways, wouldn't it be cheaper to knock it down and start over?

    Jim, 33rd degree Mason, Cleves

    1. Was there any friction back when the Mason hall was still operating?

      Also, is it really fair to say that the "temple," was devoted to the hatred of local citizens? Is the dislike of Catholics an official Mason position?

      Nevertheless, the building is gorgeous and could still serve a good purpose as an example of great architecture regardless of who a previous tenant may have been.

      You also mention that you're a 33rd degree Mason in Cleves, did you attend the Price Hill lodge before it merged with the Cleves lodge?

    2. As a ex mason I would say masons don't hate catholic people the church is against masonic activities both are not of christ. I would agree spiritual warfare is active there and should be destroyed.

    3. Anonymous , you are wrong about the FreeMasons , It was the Pope that sent down a papal bull denouncing Freemasons..

    4. For those who are worried about these religious battles (???) perhaps it would be in your best interest not to come to Price Hill. There may be a lot of Catholic who live here, but I don't believe they would want this historical buildings destroyed. I can't wait to see what they do with this building. The Incline Restrict is becoming a gem in our city and this building will only add more to this neighborhood.

  3. As some one who continues to see prime architectural gems die and here in Melbourne Florida they are dying at a steady rate. I can see the anguish this building has suffered at the hands of time. I hope a millionaire can save her or it might just hit the wreaking ball.

  4. What a great place! Great pictures you took brother! I love the history you link into with each post, keeps interest going. It looked so lonely and haunted and a building like that should be brought back to life. Love all the Masonic treasures still there. They just don't make 'em like that anymore!

  5. Sir - stating in your article that there was another owner of the building between 1990 and 2014 would have added clarity concerning the condition of the building and contents. Additionally, Freemasons do not hate Catholics - in fact, there are a great number of Freemasons who adhere to the Catholic faith. Freemasonry does not take a formal stand on religious or political matters.

  6. Here's another "forgotten" Hannaford building, this from 1891 and resides in Middletown:

  7. It is and was not a hate of the Catholic parishioners it was the Pope denounced Masonry as a secret society and if they could not disclose all masonic activities in a confessional booth there must be something ungodly about the order. I being a catholic have been a mason for 30 years and there is no friction or issue with my religion. Google Masonic Order and you will find out some very interesting facts of the order and how many of our founding fathers were masons.

  8. As the Daughter of a 32nd Degree Mason Scottish Rite and former Rainbow Girl, I just wanted to add what I came to know as the truth regarding the issues between the Masons and the catholic religion. Centuries ago, the catholic church took issue with Very intelligent men of Science disagreeing with what the catholic church, at that time, forced their congregation to believe. The Mason broke off from the church and met in secrecy. This caused the catholic church to basically instill a group of man to try to police the Masons and attempt to end their secret meeting, these men were called the Templars I believe. My father passed in 1991 with a full Masonic ritual and was buried with his lamb skin apron on. My father hated no one or no particular religion.

  9. This was my home lodge when I became a Mason in 1983. It was a beautiful building inside and out at least up until it was sold in 1987 or 1988. The lodge members attendance fell off because the neighborhood deteriorated and on many meeting nights you would find your car broken into or damaged. It got to the point where very few members attended at all and we had to merge, which we did with North Bend Lodge in Cleves.

  10. Funny if anyone other than Price Hill Will owned this the city would be all over them for high vegetation as well as all the mold inside the building. But you know its the City of Cincinnati being selective and I call BS. Time for all owners to be held accountable and this building has been vacant for a decade it is deteriorating as it sits. What an eye sore. Make them do something now or start writing orders on them like you do for all the other people trying to being the area up to scale yet were not in your back pocket so you know... I cannot wait until a class action suit is slammed on the City for showing favoritism...

  11. I remember attending a heavy metal concert in this building in the early 1990's. Good memories.