Thursday, March 4, 2021

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Historic Williams Masonic Hall Gains New Life

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Stepping into the meeting room on the second floor of the Tuscan Lodge No. 215 you’re immediately taken back to when times were simpler.

A hidden charm honors the past; the 1930s-built meeting room seems more untouched by modern ways than any room in town.

Perhaps it is because the Freemasons do not generally open their meeting rooms to the public, or maybe because the lodge hasn’t been used since the 1990’s.

Regardless, the old room has maintained its air of solemn grandness.

Hidden above historic downtown Williams, is rooms lined with beautiful oiled wood floors, hand crafted moldings, and antique light fixtures whisper the notes of yesteryear. One special feature is the grand room, where the mysterious notion of Masonry, hidden symbols and allegories associate with several generations of Williams men who have risen in degrees through the mystery of life, Masonic style.

The Tuscan Lodge No. 215, chartered in October of 1880, by John F. Fouch after relocating from Martinez California.

In 1930, Fouch headed the project to give the freemasons a permanent home. The two story building was designed to house three businesses and their private lodge encompassing the second floor.

The 12,000 square foot building is designed by Starks & Flander of Sacramento; the building became the precursor to the Williams City Hall, followed by the Williams Union Elementary School.

The lodge is built at the former site of the Williams Hotel, which was destroyed in a fire in 1923.

The mortgage was paid using revenue received from the three businesses occupying the lower floors. At the time of its completion, Worsley’s Mercantile, Tallman’s Luncheonette, and the Red & White Grocery occupied the commercial spaces.

A ceremonial mortgage burning was held in March of 1949; the building was paid in full.

Over the years the Masonic Lodge was an integral part of the Williams community, holding community and charity events.

The Tuscan Lodge had a large ‘Rainbow Girl’ following which is a Masonic youth service organization which teaches leadership training through community service. Girls ages 11 to 21 would learn about the value of charity and service through their work and involvement with their annual local and grand service projects.

According to ’50 Years of Masonry in California’ by Edwin Sherman, the Williams Tuscan Lodge is “one of the brightest lodges in the Masonic constellation of the state.”

Nearly 81-years later, since its completion in 1932, the grand history of Tuscan Lodge No. 215 has recently changed owners, and they could not be any more delighted.

“We are excited to hold on to a piece of Williams’ history” said Pat Ash.

Williams natives and locals, Kevin and Pat Ash purchased the building from the Colusa Masonic Association on February 26th, 2013.

Afraid to see another downtown building be sold to an outside party, and to be neglected going into disrepair; they decided to take action and make the investment to save a part of our communities heritage.

“It is rare to get a chance to own a piece of history,” said Ash, “and the opportunity to bring it back to life, is something that I am up to!”

Although the 81-year-old building needs some repair, Ash prides its overall healthy condition to their assistance in maintaining the building over the last few years.

“Kevin and I often checked on the building for the masons and notified them of any problems.”

Plans for the lodge are uncertain; however Ash wants to shed positive light that they have great intentions for embodying its history and restoring it to its natural beauty.

“Everyday we come up with new ideas for the place,” said Ash, “right now our focus is to restore and preserve.”

Currently the lower commercial spaces are the home to Fastenal, and Salon Central (formerly Shear Class).

As the couple embarks on this new venture, they have high hopes for serving the community and giving new life to Williams’ hidden gem.

“Kevin and I have worked on several projects together,” said Ash, “I hope this is our swan song.” ■

 

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