Archive | February, 2014

Preserving History in St. John’s

24 Feb

Masonic Temple

As I mentioned in the previously, the latest project on Rebel-With-A-Cause is a partnership with Drop Me Anywhere. While Drop Me Anywhere is dedicated to readers participating in choosing where I travel without a plan, it also includes a philanthropic element in which I spend a day, or part of a day, volunteering with a local organization, person or effort and then profile them here. So here’s the first:

Photo from the 1894 laying of the cornerstone

Photo from the 1894 laying of the cornerstone

I’d like to introduce you to Kathie Hicks and Peter Halley, the owners of the Masonic Temple in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The cornerstone of the building was laid on August 23, 1894 with many dignitaries present for the big event. For over 100 years the building housed the secret society of the Free Masons. The Masonic Temple was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in April 1995. Peter and Kathie bought the building on February 14, 2008 with the intent to preserve this preserve it and house the Spirit of Newfoundland Productions which would provide food, entertainment and a general event venue to downtown St. John’s. So far, they’ve succeeded in most of their plan. The Spirit of Newfound Productions hosts wonderful events and dinner-shows for the local community of St. John’s and surrounding communities.

Spirit of Newfoundland Productions

Spirit of Newfoundland Productions

The one thing they’re still working on is the preservation of the building. Peter and Kathie have worked hard on the inside rooms (and there are many of them). Spirit of Newfoundland Productions performs avariety of musical and comedy dinner shows in the downstairs showroom but, once they bring the upstairs up to code, they have plans to move the show upstairs. This part of the renovation will be fully funded by Peter and Kathie and their business.

The outside of the building is another story. While the plan was for the business to pay for all renovations, inside and out, it became clear that the cost of preserving the outside would be prohibitive. At nearly $500,000, they’re hoping for some support. They are currently in the process of developing fundraisers to finance this effort. Planned fundraising opportunities include a series of concerts and the sale of some specially designed memorabilia (possibly key-chains and/or memento boxes).

Masonic Eye in the ceiling

Masonic Eye in the ceiling

In addition, in one of the many hidden rooms they have discovered hidden treasures. Approximately 2,000 original bricks were found in the basement. One of the planned fundraisers is to sell some of these historic bricks. Each weighs nearly five pounds and is over 100 years old. They’ll be mounted and sold individually in person and online. Bricks will be mailed or delivered by courier. There will only be about 1,000 rectangular bricks for sale as the odd-shaped and angular bricks will be used on the building itself.

Entrance to the dungeon

Entrance to the dungeon

Kathie and Peter are passionate about this building and feel it’s important to preserve it and not have it turned into another condominium complex. After touring the inside, I agree. They’re also passionate about Newfoundland as you can see in the song lyrics below. A song they wrote which closes each show at the Masonic Temple.

You can find out more about this historic building here. To find out how you can buy bricks and other fundraising items, or get tickets to concerts and events contact Spirit of Newfoundland.

The Spirit of Newfoundland                                                                                                                                                                              (Written by Peter Halley & Kathie Hicks)

It doesn’t matter where you come from                                                                                                                                                                      It doesn’t matter where you’ve been.                                                                                                                                                                         It’s our spirit and our culture that keeps us all within                                                                                                                                        One big family together that is powered form above,                                                                                                                                            We are rich no matter what we owe                                                                                                                                                                               We have each other’s love                                                                                                                                                                                              We have our rocky shores and mighty seas                                                                                                                                                               Our rolling fog and salt sea breeze                                                                                                                                                                                We are a people proud and strong                                                                                                                                                                          From Newfoundland and Labrador.

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