Silverton lodge is the oldest on Western Slope.
After 135 years in Silverton, the oldest Masonic Lodge on the Western Slope of Colorado is closing its doors and auctioning off its building — and perhaps the building’s contents — on Aug. 3.
Lodge officials blame the closure on declining membership.
Zeke Zanoni, past master and current secretary, said the lodge probably had 125 members at its peak around 1900.
“When I came along there were about 60 or 65 of us,” Zanoni said. That was in 1974 or so. Now the lodge is down to just 30 members and 20 of them are “plural” members from Durango.
Zanoni said Silverton had a particularly difficult time retaining members, with the boom-and-bust cycles of the local mining industry.
“The mining would be here and then it would be gone,” Zanoni said. “The masons had to move on to work somewhere else.”
The iconic 130-year-old Masonic building at the corner of 13th and Reese streets is in surprisingly good shape, Zanoni said.
“Structurally, the building is in excellent condition,” he said. He noted the south side exterior needs some work “and of course it needs a paint job.”
While the auction date is set for Aug. 3, Pat Story of Treasure Auction Service in Durango, said the hours have not been scheduled since the Masons need to decide whether to include the contents of the building in the auction.
The large wood-frame building was built in 1883 and sits on three lots. It was acquired by the Masons in 1893.
The San Juan County Assessor’s Office lists its value at $260,664, under a nonresidential charitable classification.
Wilford Reynolds of Durango, Worshipful Master of San Juan #33 Masonic Lodge, said the declining membership makes maintaining the lodge in Silverton unviable.
“That’s part of the problem,” Reynolds said.
He described the decision to sell the lodge as a difficult one.
“It’s heartbreaking. We were up there the other day with the auctioneer,” Reynolds said. “There’s quite a bit of history involved on that corner.”
The Silverton Masonic Lodge No. 33 AF & AM was chartered in 1878. The lodge met at two buildings which have since been torn down, prior to purchasing the building at 1271 Reese Street in building in 1893. The lodge has met there ever since.
The building was built in 1883 for the plant of the San Juan Herald newspaper downstairs, and the pretentious Silverton Club for men upstairs. The La Plata Miner moved into the printing quarters in 1885. The building initially occupied only the front half of the lots, but was extended to the alley in 1902, with the completion of a beautiful lodge room on the second floor and apartments beneath.
Reynolds said “we don’t know yet” whether the auction will include the many items inside the building.
“We have to have a lodge meeting with all the members who show up,” Reynolds said. “This is a big decision we’re going to have to make.”
Reynolds said “it’s going to be hard to see the doors shut on that place — especially for old Zeke (Zanoni). That’s his home lodge.”