Members leading the effort come from Lake Oswego, West Linn
by: VERN UYETAKE West Linn’s Mike Gates serves as lodge president of Waluga Lodge No. 181 at 417 Second St. in Lake Oswego and has been working on the remodel project.

Lake Oswego's Masonic hall is receiving a long-awaited facelift thanks to the brothers of Waluga Lodge No. 181, who are bringing its exterior up to date with the organization that calls it home.

The building, located at 417 Second St., was originally constructed in the 1880s as a grocery store. It was also used as a dance hall and then a silent movie theater before Lake Oswego's Masonic lodge was established in 1922.

In Freemasonry, a meeting space is known as a temple or a hall and a lodge refers to the men's organization itself. Lake Oswego's chapter is known as Waluga Lodge No. 181. Its members include residents of West Linn.

'There is a reason we have (places such as) Waluga Junior High and Waluga Park,' said Mike Gates, lodge president, of West Linn. 'The masons were attentive to history and held significant positions around town.'

And, even if they don't bear the Waluga name, Gates said you can also find the Masons' imprint on a variety of buildings throughout town.

Despite these contributions, however, the hall had fallen into somewhat of a state of disrepair.

'People who have walked by here for years didn't know it existed,' as its façade was largely hidden by vegetation, Gates said. 'It was nondescript and uninviting.'

Once completed, the building's facelift will better represent the lodge for the active and viable organization it is, Gates said.

'We're coming up on the lodge's centennial, and this is a magic moment in Freemasonry,' Gates said. 'There's a rediscovery worldwide.'

He said the Waluga Lodge has seen an increase in membership and is seeing a shift in the age of its members as well.

Overhaul a long,

ongoing process

Renovation efforts on the lodge's hall began last summer with the building's main level multipurpose great hall.

Lodge brothers fixed the cracking, peeling ceiling and unearthed and refurbished hardwood flooring they found beneath old carpet and a half-inch of adhesive. They also installed a projection screen, harking back to the building's former life as a silent movie theater.

Last winter, they moved on to the building's basement, rehabilitating its original cedar paneling, redoing the flooring, painting its exposed beams and adding a pool table, library and big-screen TV.

'We wanted to make it more amenable for the community to use,' Gates said, as the basement - and the great hall - are available for the public to rent or lease for classes or events.

Three tenants currently use this space for canine training and Scottish dance instruction, and Patrick Warner, chef at neighboring restaurant Scratch, uses its kitchen space.

Gates said the next and last project to complete interior renovations will be an update of the restrooms.

'The word antique comes to mind,' he said of the facilities, adding that there is no hot water running to the men's bathroom.

Gates said he's unsure when these updates will be made.

Currently, Gates and other lodge volunteers are 'working desperately to beat the rain' with their exterior renovations.

Their work will replace the building's front façade, add a covered entryway and install a pedestrian sitting wall. An inscription above its main entrance will read, 'brotherhood, relief, truth' - the founding principles of Freemasonry.

Gates said that, throughout its phases, nearly 100 percent of the renovation's labor has been completed by lodge members.

Various building materials have been donated as well, including 150-year-old bricks from the original Portland trolley line that will make up the face of the hall's outdoor sitting wall.

Gates said most of the funding for the project was provided by a donation through the life insurance policy of a brother in addition to a $15,000 façade redevelopment grant from the city of Lake Oswego.

He said the building's exterior design will carry on design themes found throughout the rest of Lake Oswego's downtown area.

He said he hopes the facelift will serve as a more welcoming front for the hall, letting the community know the hall is available.

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