Preserving Our Masonic Built Heritage
“A building has a soul; the architect who designed it gave a part of his soul. And the workers who gave their sweat and blood to build it gave a part of their soul too.”
“Everyman is the better for a home. Who does not feel a thrill as he crosses his own threshhold. The same is true of the Masonic order. I am sure that every Mason will feel he is a better Mason because of what he has done towards making this [Windsor Masonic] Temple a reality.”
“Masonry teaches the lesson of universality. Some organizations are inclined to be narrow, but the Masonic order seeks to crush out prejudice and to set up a high standard of morals for its members to keep before them.”
“Freemasons are committed to doing what is best for society.”
Disclaimer Number One:
- This story skips the question “should our masonic built heritage-buildings-be preserved?” to instead focus on opportunities for such preservation.
- The decision as to whether masons’ should preserve a masonic building is nuanced. It is decided case-by-case, building-by-building.
- However, masons should make such decisions after understanding the opportunities (financial and otherwise) that assist in heritage preservation and which can improve accessibility, reduce energy costs, reduce maintenance costs, and preserve useful life (even “For the Next 100 Years!”)
As of this story's publication, there exists in Ontario and Canada many opportunities for heritage, historical, or community building preservation. These opportunities extend to Masonic buildings.
- The Green Inclusive Community Building Fund deadline: February 28, 2023 at 15:00 ET
- The Ontario Trillium Resilient Places Fund deadline: February 1st, 2023 at 17:00 ET
- Legacy Fund — Building Communities through Arts and Heritage deadline: Open (application must arrive before a historical anniversary)
Opportunities are cyclical: application periods open and close regularly.
One excellent resource, by which Masons can keep track of application periods, is the National Trust’s “Funding for Historical Places” portal. This portal provides a regularly updated list of opportunities through “Regeneration Works.”
Even if an application period is closed, a new application(s) period can and will open. Check the portal regularly (at least monthly).
Signing-up for the National Trust’s Regeneration Works/Historical Places newsletter is a helpful way to check regularly.
Signing-up for the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s newsletter is another helpful way to learn of new (or re-emerging) opportunities.
Following all of the above on social media is yet another helpful way to learn of new (or re-emerging) opportunities.
National Trust’s Regeneration Works is holding a “Sponsorship Seminar” on Jan 20th, 2023, which you can learn about in National Trust’s Instagram Page.
Also helpful: maintaining contact with a municipality (particularly a municipality's heritage or building departments), to ask about municipal opportunities. Also, this contact is important as it will assist if heritage restoration is required, especially if the building is designated a heritage building.
Municipality’s also often provide tax incentives for heritage restoration and preservation work.
Knowing how and where to find opportunities is the first-step; knowing how best to utilise these opportunities is the second-step.
A case-study on how the Windsor Masonic Temple utilised one such opportunity.
Case-Study: 2021 ESDC Grant for Bathroom Renovation.
The Windsor Masonic Temple (Temple) is administered and managed by the Border Masonic Temple Association (BMTA).
In June 2020, the BMTA applied for an Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) “Enabling Accessibility” grant, to fund the Temple’s “blue room” washroom accessibility modification project.
In June 2021, the BMTA received from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) an “Enabling Accessibility” federal grant, totalling $59, 829.00.
Applying for and receiving this grant involved a great deal of time and effort by the BMTA, a volunteer body.
Asking the BMTA to expend time and effort on this project, on-top of its other administrative (and voluntary) functions, was a “big ask.”
However, the BMTA stepped-up and dedicated the time and effort necessary to ensure a successful application and project!
Some of the BMTA’s efforts included:
- Regular communication between Board, committees, and 3rd parties.
- Gathering supporting documentation.
- Completing and submitting the ESDC application with supporting documentation.
- Monitoring and responding to ESDC communications.
- Signing and returning “Articles of Agreement.”
- Acquiring and reviewing quotes.
- Selecting the contractor.
- Scheduling and reviewing progress.
- Keeping a record of all project related correspondence, expenses, receipts, and other documents.
- Liaising between bodies & groups that use the Temple and the contractor.
- Completing reports required by the “Articles of Agreement.”
As the pictures included below demonstrate, the Temple’s “blue room” washroom is now modern and fully accessible. Modifications include:
- Accessible bathroom stall, with sufficient room for mobility aids.
- Grab-bars within the accessible stall.
- Accessible sinks.
- Accessible (tilted) mirror.
- Touch-less and accessible toilets and faucets.
- A cleaned and polished floor.
- Cleaned and re-painted walls, window sills, and radiators.
- Modification to existing plumbing lines, necessary for the toilet and stall replacement, which both ensures the washroom’s accessibility and extends the plumbing lines’ (and Temple’s) useful life. This also allowed for the bringing of hot-water directly to the blue-room (and learning centre’s) now accessible washroom, which is of benefit to every group and body which uses the Temple.
The modified “blue room” washroom equals a more enjoyable experience for all who use the Temple, but particularly a more enjoyable (and safe) experience for those with mobility impairments or who otherwise require an accessible washroom.
- Author’s note: as someone who uses a wheelchair, I can personally vouch for the above.
- Note de l’auteur : en tant que personne qui utilise un fauteuil roulant, je peux personnellement garantir ce qui précède.
The plumbing modifications, a necessary part of the project, equals an extension of the Temple’s useful life.
- Author’s Note: The BMTA is grateful to ESDC Canada for its support, and to everyone involved in the process.
- Note de l’auteur: La BMTA est reconnaissante à EDSC Canada pour son soutien et à toutes les personnes impliquées dans le processus.
Disclaimer Number Two
Every opportunity requires unique steps and has specific application requirements.
These steps and requirements will depend on levels of government, administrative agencies, and its purpose (amongst other things).
Before applying for any opportunity-carefully read the relevant application guide or guidelines, attend any scheduled seminars or conference-calls, and review other resources as necessary.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation, for example, allows applicants to schedule coaching-calls with program managers and holds on-line application process seminars. The Green Inclusive Community Building fund holds seminars and RETScreen information is available via YouTube.
Before applying for or signing any documents related to these opportunities, one can and should seek independent legal counsel.
While every opportunity is unique, demonstrating certain elements greatly improve the likelihood of a successful application across all opportunities.
These elements can be divided into two categories:
- 1) demonstrating good management/governance; and
- 2) demonstrating public/community relevance.
Demonstrating Good Management/Governance
In this section, “organization” references the Board or other group which manages a Masonic building. In this section, “agency” refers to the body which administers opportunities.
The importance of demonstrating a Masonic building is well-managed and well-governed, when looking into opportunities, cannot be overstated.
Being able to demonstrate good-management and good-governance is important for two reasons:
- 1) It assures an agency that the application is legitimate, and not being fraudulently sent;
- 2) It reassures an agency that the building’s managing body will properly administer any funds received and that all funds received will be spent according to the public interest and agreement(s).
Most agencies will ask (as part of an application) for proof of good-management and good-governance. This proof should be gathered in advance of any application submission (and must often be included with the application). Proof of good-management and good-governance includes:
- A copy of the organization’s by-laws, or an explanation as to the organizational structure and signing authority (as administrative agencies will need to confirm that any applications are signed by an authorized agent).
- If an application is being submitted by a third-party (such as a professional agency, which has pros and cons), the organization will need to provide confirmation (letter or minutes) that the third-party has the permission necessary to submit the application.
- An up-to-date list of Board members and terms-of-service.
- Contact information of at least two Board members, authorized agents or third-parties. Keeping this information updated is of vital importance, as an application can take months or years to process, during which time regular communication between the organization and agency will need to take place.
- A copy of the organization’s audited financial statements from the preceding two years. If the organization had gross revenue totalling over $100,000, it is best to have the statements audited by an outside agency and include a Compilation Engagement Report.
- Pictures of the area or areas to which the opportunity is meant to apply.
- Confirmation of the organization’s “not-for-profit” or other status, usually a CRA business number.
- The organization’s “Mission Statement”
A mission statement is a challenge. The statement that would generally apply to any organization which manages a Masonic building would be “to manage the day-to-day operations of building x.” However, this statement does not get to the heart of why the building is relevant, neither does the common Masonic refrain “to make good men better.”
This author has found that two statements, one historical and one modern, best describe the mission of both Freemasonry in general and our Masonic buildings in particular, and has used both in successful applications. The statements are found at the start of this story and are, again:
- “Masonry teaches the lesson of universality. Some organizations are inclined to be narrow, but the Masonic order seeks to crush out prejudice and to set up a high standard of morals for its members to keep before them.” (1922 M. W. Master at the Grand Opening of the Windsor Masonic Temple)
- “Freemasons are committed to doing what is best for society.” (Sep 2021 Letter from M. W. Bro. Cameron).
This author used the idea of what is “best for society,” as a “jumping off point” within applications for the Windsor Masonic Temple.
- Doing what is best for society means ensuring our Temple is as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible.
- Doing what is best for society means ensuring our Temple’s unique historical and heritage features for future generations are preserved, championed, and maintained.
- Doing what is best for society means ensuring our Temple is accessible-so everyone across Southwest Ontario can within the Windsor Masonic temple connect with friends, family, and fellow community members.
- Doing what is best for society means ensuring our Temple’s historical documentation is digitally preserved, protected, and accessible, allowing for future masons (and non-masons) to connect with stories of and from the Windsor Masonic Temple’s (over) 100 year history.
- Doing what is best for society means ensuring our Temple’s useful life is extended.
The above demonstrates that a building is well-governed, and will properly administer any funds and opportunities.
It does not demonstrate why a building should be granted such funds and opportunities. This is a question of relevance.
- Author’s Note: Demonstrating relevance is extremely important both for Masonic buildings and Freemasonry. Far too often, Freemasonry does not take the steps necessary to either be or demonstrate relevance within its communities.
- Note de l’auteur : Démontrer la pertinence est extrêmement important tant pour les constructions maçonniques que pour la franc-maçonnerie. Bien trop souvent, la franc-maçonnerie ne prend pas les mesures nécessaires pour être ou démontrer sa pertinence au sein de ses communautés.
For an agency to support a Masonic building, that building must be relevant to the community in which it is located. More so, it must demonstrate that relevance.
Relevance is derived from a building’s accessibility or openness to and for the public; from its historical value; from its use as both a masonic and artistic venue.
Using the Windsor Masonic Temple as an example of relevance, see below:
- In 2021, the Mayor of the City of Windsor wrote that “in 1921, when construction of the Windsor Masonic Temple got underway, it set the foundation of what would become one of the city’s most treasured landmarks, the treasured and ornate building on the corner of Erie and Ouellette.” This demonstrates that the building is relevant to the public because it adds to Windsor’s architectural and historical character.
- The Windsor Masonic Temple hosts coffee clubs, a Scottish Rite Learning Centre, dancers and has been home to numerous open-houses, graduations, holiday dinners, coffee roasters, and the cherished memories of countless community members.
- The Windsor Masonic Temple membership also ventures into its community-whether through the 2017 City Hall Cornerstone Ceremony, District Services, Remembrance Day Services, and more.
- The Windsor Masonic Temple has also acted as a host for various artists, including poets, musicians, and artisans.
- The Windsor Masonic Temple also regularly posts to social media, including taking part in social media related programs-such as “Historical Places Days”
- Hosting virtual events, open to the public, such as regular “GoToMeetings.”
Being relevant is important: proving relevance is equally important.
There are many ways to create or otherwise demonstrate a building’s relevance. Some ways include:
- Ask the municipal government (City Council, Mayor) to write letters discussing the building’s value to and for the community (including the building’s historical value).
- Review local newspapers, find articles, advertisements, or stories related to events which have occurred or are occurring within the building.
- Post pictures from the building on Social Media, invite community members on social media to share stories and memories from the building (take advantage of hashtags, other resources).
- Hold open houses, in conjunction with local “Doors Open” events or separate. Keep track of the number of visitors and their contacts. Hold tours regularly.
- Take part in community events. Organise a cornerstone ceremony, provide a space for charitable or community events.
- Keep records, consider insurance requirements and local ordinances, and always review any projects to look for ways to build for the next one.
- Keep coffee, tea, small gifts and tokens of appreciate on-hand for visitors and guests.
When possible, including land acknowledgements. Documentation/correspondence in both official languages can be of significant benefit, especially when applying for federal opportunities.
Below, the author has included the land acknowledgement used in our correspondence, in both official languages.
- We acknowledge that we are on land and surrounded by water, originally inhabited by Indigenous Peoples who have travelled this area since time immemorial. This territory is within the lands honoured by the Wampum Treaties; agreements between the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Lenni Lenape and allied Nations to peacefully share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. Specifically, we would like to acknowledge the presence of the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi) and Huron/Wendat Peoples. We are dedicated to honouring Indigenous history and culture while remaining committed to moving forward respectfully with all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.
- Nous reconnaissons que nous sommes sur terre et entourés d’eau, habités à l’origine par des peuples autochtones qui ont parcouru cette région depuis des temps immémoriaux. Ce territoire fait partie des terres honorées par les traités Wampum; accords entre les Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Lenni Lenape et les nations alliées pour partager pacifiquement et prendre soin des ressources autour des Grands Lacs. Plus précisément, nous tenons à souligner la présence de la Confédération des Trois Feux (Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi) et des peuples Huron/Wendat. Nous nous engageons à honorer l’histoire et la culture autochtones tout en restant déterminés à aller de l’avant dans le respect avec toutes les Premières Nations, les Inuits et les Métis.
When crafting a land acknowledgement, communicate with your local First Nations community to confirm the appropriate wording.
You will also notice, throughout this story, this author included notes in both official languages. Trying to ensure that correspondence is inclusive of both official languages and our official language communities is an important part of being relevant within the community and the application process.
Taking the time to consult with the community, both as it relates to applications, opportunities, and relevance (both in-person and virtually) is a very important part of the process.
This story concludes with the same quote with which it started:
“A building has a soul; the architect who designed it gave a part of his soul. And the workers who gave their sweat and blood to build it gave a part of their soul too.”
To the above quote, could be added parts of the souls of the Brethren who called and call the building home and parts of the souls of the community members for whom the building contains cherished memories.
Our Masonic buildings have souls-it is up to us to preserve them.
With (a great deal of) time and effort, it can be done!
*All opinions expressed are those of Square & Compass Promotions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Windsor Masonic Temple and/or any other masonic body.