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Masonic symbols crumble as crews remove them from Elgin church
By Jeffrey Gaunt | Daily Herald Staff

Crews were unable to preserve a compass and square symbol that they removed from an old Masonic temple in downtown Elgin. City officials say they are storing the pieces in case someone decides to try to put it back together.

 

Photo Courtesy of Joe Nugara

The cornerstone of the former Masonic temple in Elgin was removed by crews earlier this week. Members of Family Life Church, which now owns the building, had said the symbols conflicted with their religion.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/7/2007 10:31 AM | Updated: 12/8/2007 12:05 AM

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Elgin City Council members had hoped to preserve the symbols they agreed could be removed from a former Masonic temple-turned-church.

But one of those symbols is now in pieces, and the other was left lying on the ground for more than a day before it was moved this week to the Elgin Historical Museum.

"The symbols weren't constructed in a manner that enabled us to preserve them well," city spokeswoman Sue Olafson said. "They were fairly entrenched in the bricks. They broke apart as they were removed."

The city council had agreed in October to let members of the Family Life Church remove the two symbols: a cornerstone etched with Masonic dates and a traditional compass and square marking from the front of the building.

Church members had said the Masonic symbols conflicted with their religion.

After its removal, the cornerstone was left lying outside near the building.

The compass and square is in pieces, although city officials still plan to hold onto them in the event someone wants to put them back together, Olafson said.

"This does have some value to people," she said, "to the Masons themselves, or to somebody who believes they could possibly reconstruct it."

There was a bit of good news, however, during the removal process.

Construction crews found a time capsule behind the cornerstone.

City officials say they will return the capsule, a copper box, to the appropriate person or group.

The contents of the time capsule are very important to the Masons, said Joe Nugara, a Masonic officer of Elgin Lodge 117.

"Some of them could be from the inception of the lodge in 1852," Nugara said. "I don't know if we're entitled to anything. I just hope we get an opportunity from Elgin to witness and open up the artifacts."

As for the actual removal of the symbols, Nugara said, he isn't holding city officials accountable for the current condition of the markings.

"There was no other way of removing them," he said. "I'm not faulting the city. I'm not. It's a shame it has come down to a crumbled situation."

But Nugara said he does wish church members hadn't asked to remove the historic markings in the first place.

"If you wanted to cover it, cover it," he said. "But why remove it? There is so much Masonry offers society. I wish the general population knew more about it."

Council member Mike Powers can sympathize with Nugara. Powers voted against the removal of the symbols back in October.

"It's a historic building," he said. "It's a cool building. The point I made in the meeting (with the church members) is if this offends you, the whole building must offend you. Buy a different building."