Still standing, but for how long?

Still standing, but for how long?

After 96 years as a landmark overlooking Puget Sound, the Masonic Home of Washington in Des Moines is facing an uncertain future.

Completed in 1926 as a retirement community for members of Washington’s Masonic Society, the stately structure features box beam ceilings, hand-carved woodwork, stained glass, and terrazzo floors. By 2004, the Masonic Grand Lodge of Washington started market the property as a traditional retirement home, open to Masons and non-Masons alike, but the economic recession put those plans on hold. Instead, the ornate building and grounds, became a venue for weddings, film shoots, and corporate meetings.

The property was put up for sale in 2013, and event-center operations ceased the next year. It was sold in 2019 to EPC Holdings LLC for $11.5 million and was transferred to Zenith Properties LLC, leading to an application to the city of Des Moines for a permit to demolish the building, which the Masons reportedly estimate needs $40 million in upgrades. Since then, city officials and the property owner have been in discussions about the proposed demolition and new uses of the site. As of this summer, the city hadn’t taken final action on the plans.

The Masonic Home, in its current state, has support from the public for keeping it the way it is in some form. Backers include Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, a non-profit organization that in 2015 placed the edifice on its Most Endangered Places list.

Washington Trust, an advocate for saving historic sites statewide, has encouraged the city to require alternatives to demolition as part of its review and studies of proposals for the Masonic Home and property on Marine View Drive South.

The former Masonic Home of Washington is a Des Moines landmark.