The Five Year Plan
Rehabilitating and Re-envisioning
Our five year plan will truly transform this building, this property, and Franklin. We support this bold statement with our judicious approach to every aspect of the project, from the brick and mortar restoration and rehabilitation of the Hall, to interpreting Franklin’s rich stories, to re-envisioning how we can use the site to tell a multi-cultural, multi-dimensional story of the American experience in Franklin, Tennessee.
Our plan goes beyond the scope of simply restoring the Masonic Hall in the convention sense. Instead, we are broadening our lens to re-envision the entire property, restoring and rehabilitating the 19th century Hall and constructing a new, separate visitor’s center. Connection these two pieces, old and new, will allow us to bond history to the ongoing American story.
During the site’s transformation, we will continue to offer programming and educational opportunities, ensuring that people of all ages and from all walks of life can benefit from the unique resources we offer. Through exhibits, visitors will engage with a powerful combination of imagery, artifacts, and authentic storytelling that will encourage them to discover their own connection to the American story. We hope visitors will leave empowered and inspired to join ongoing conversations about America’s ongoing story in their own communities, uniting the past to the present and future in a meaningful way.
Our plan for rehabilitating the Masonic Hall will be implemented in five phases, over the next five years:
Saving the West Wall
The first phase of the project is stabilizing the west wall by rebuilding the center parapet. The brickmasons who constructed the Masonic Hall two hundred years ago built the front wall three bricks thick. Upon reaching the parapet, they reduced the thickness to two bricks, making this area intrinsically weaker than the rest of the wall. 1916 repairs reveal that the parapet was at that time already experiencing structural problems. While this work stabilized the center parapet for the time being, it failed the fix the problem.
Over the past century, the center parapet has continued to slump forward. At its most extreme point, it currently leans an alarming eight inches beyond the rest of the west wall. Not only is the parapet’s tilt a safety hazard, it has also separated the west wall from the roof, creating a plethora of other problems. This first phase of the Masonic Hall’s rehabilitation is imperative and time-sensitive.
The plan devised by our structural engineer and architectural team, Mark Watson, P.E., and Belinda Stewart Architects, is extensive and will solve these problems. The plan calls for disassembling the center parapet to the tops of the third floor windows and rebuilding it in plumb with the west wall, tying in the attic joists and roof to the masonry to prevent this problem from reappearing in the future.
Give here to help rebuild the west wall!
The majority of the interior work will take place during Phase 5. Certain aspects of the interior, however, will have to be addressed during Phase 1. The plaster in the third floor hallway and anteroom will be affected by the deconstruction of the west wall. The plaster is attached directly to the bricks that form the wall. As these bricks are removed, any plaster attached to them will be lost unless previously removed.
The plaster in the third floor hall is 19th century material, and much can be learned about the men who applied it by studying it. Additionally, early 20th century graffiti is scrawled across its surface. The most legible section contains the signatures of men who wallpapered the room in the early 1900s–two of whom were important members of Hiram Lodge No. 7–and a Royal Arch symbol scratched into the plaster’s surface.
Because of the unique nature of this plaster, we have engaged RLA Conservation from Miami, FL to remove and conserve this section of the wall. RLA Conservation is a team of professionally trained conservators and artisans who specializes in caring for historic architecture, artifacts, and sculpture. This step will ensure that generations to come can continue to study and learn from the Masonic Hall’s historic fabric.
Other aspects of the work will include:
- Conservation of the entire third floor hall and York Rite Masonic Ceremonial Room
- Public access to the third floor, stabilization of stairwell
- Installation of new lighting design and upgraded utilities to support new mechanical systems, including climate control, HVAC, fire suppression and security systems.
Belinda J. Stewart, FAIA
Principle of Belinda Stewart Architects
Leading the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall project is Belinda Stewart Architects, PA from Eupora, Mississippi. The firm’s commitment to preservation, local communities and sustainability makes their partnership to the Hall project mutually beneficial.
Ms. Stewart’s firm has won numerous awards for their work on historic buildings including the 2016 Mississippi Heritage Trust Award for Excellence, the 2016 Mississippi Heritage Trust Award for Preservation, and the 2016 Mississippi Heritage Trust and Mississippi African American Historic Preservation Council Award for Excellence in African American Preservation.