By EMILY R. WEST
Visiting the Hiram Masonic Lodge on Second Avenue in Franklin may come as nothing new for Rep. Charles Sargent, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t learn something every time goes.
Touring at the tail end of last week, Sargent joined Masonic members in Franklin’s first three-story structure, once the tallest building in town. Sargent finally had the opportunity to host Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Jackson), a history buff and a legislator who cares about historic preservation.
“I’ve talked about this building so much I’ve wanted him to come down and visit,” Sargent said.
The Hall constructed from 1823 to 1826, earned its National Historic Landmark status back in 2015. With its revival architecture, it remains the oldest Masonic Hall in its original location.
In October 2016, nearly $50,000 in state appropriated money came to the Masonic Hall to help upright its structure along the western wall. The building has faced its age issues throughout the past few years. In some areas bricks have crumbled. The third floor is noticeably not level.
“I wanted him to be able to see why we funded it,” Sargent said of McDaniel’s visit.
The Masons are hoping to get the building back into shape through both private partnerships and funding from both the state and local governments. The City of Franklin helped out the Masons in early 2016 with money to pay for an architectural study.
History is apparent throughout the Hall. President Andrew Jackson met with the Chiefs of the Chickasaw nations during the negotiations on a treaty to remove the Chickasaw from their land and resettle them in Oklahoma. Also present were also President Jackson’s Secretary of War, John Eaton and Gen. John Coffee, a member of Jackson’s cabinet.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Confederate uniforms were sewn in the hall. After Union troops occupied Franklin, the Hall was used as a barracks. And like many buildings in Franklin, the Masonic Hall was used as a field hospital after the 1864 Battle of Franklin.
Preservationists want to ensure those stories stay intact, much like the building’s structure.
It is not clear yet whether more public funding is on the horizon.
Standing on the third floor –– the most precarious piece of the Hall –– Sargent said historic preservationists would have to be patient.
“We are working on the budget at the present time,” he said with a grin. “If there’s some scraps laying around, we will see.”