Dayton’s Masonic Center, located at 525 W. Riverview Ave., majestically sits atop the Grafton Hill Historic District, where it has been since the first cornerstone was laid in 1926. The Grecian-styled structure was officially opened on April 1, 1928, and is part of a lot that spans about 8.5 acres. Here are some things you may not know about the iconic Dayton building:
1. IT WAS BUILT WITH DONATIONS
The structure cost $2.5 million to build, which would be about $40 million today. The Masons had approached a bank to help finance its construction, however, after raising a jaw-dropping $1.5 million in just 10 weeks, they decided not to take out a loan after all.
2. IT COST A LITTLE MORE THAN EXPECTED
Though the Masons had meticulously labored over nearly every last detail by 450 workers — most of whom were Masonic Brethren — they went over budget by $115. The reason? No one had allotted for toilet paper dispensers. The problem was quickly resolved.
3. IT MAY HAVE A GHOST OR TWO
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, many have claimed to have seen or experienced odd happenings throughout the Masonic Center. Dayton writer Chris Woodyard, author of the Haunted Ohio series, is definitely a believer, having experienced similar things herself while touring the structure in 1996, she said.
“Almost right away, a ghost, or whatever you want to call it, showed up,” Woodyard remembered. “He was kind of tubby, balding and had a big mustache. He came up to me and said, ‘You can call me George!’.”
Woodyard said the ghost led her throughout the center, even grabbing her elbow when she attempted to sit and rest. “George” eventually led her to a place where all the various classes of Masons were displayed and even pointed out the Class of 1962, which included an unidentified man who happened to look very similar to the ghost himself. When she described to others at the center what she had seen, another person claimed to have seen the same apparition before.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a ghost tell me where his picture was before,” Woodyard laughed. “He was quite friendly. He was very jolly; very happy. It was like that was his place.”
Woodyard also stumbled upon a lounge in the building where the spirits did not make her feel welcome. “It just seemed like I crashed a man’s club. It was a hostile atmosphere,” she said.
4. A FORGOTTEN ROOM WAS DISCOVERED
There are supposedly 250 rooms in the Masonic Center. However, one other detail that may have been missed resulted in the discovery of a hidden room decades after the center opened. A window washer, while working outside, noticed one of the rooms didn’t have a door. No one had been aware of this at the time. Builders broke through a wall and corrected the situation.
5. THERE’S A LOT OF MARBLE
It took 20 trainloads of marble from Vermont, Alabama and Tennessee to create the interior flooring and paneling, partitions and stairways still used today.
6. WOMEN WERE RESTRICTED
Women weren’t permitted beyond the first floor of the Masonic Center until 1977. A present-day meeting room was once used as a lounge where Masons could bring their wives instead.
7. THE MAIN THEATER IS HUGE
The main theater is commonly used for annual Masonic gatherings, but it’s also frequently used by other local organizations. The Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company the United States Air Force Band and local theater groups have also held events there. The room seats 1,800 people, which is larger than the Victoria Theatre. There is also an Æolian-Skinner pipe organ, which has 4,385 pipes. It is one of seven total pipe organs in the building. The stage’s backdrop is massive, weighing in at 2,000 pounds. It takes approximately 45 minutes to lower the theater’s chandelier for cleaning.