A few weeks ago the morning had just begun when I heard a long moan. It was coming from a few blocks away to my right.  At the time, I thought nothing of it. I’d been accustomed to the recent roars of large equipment removing snowpack, the low babble of men and the scraping of shovels during roof cleaning. Soon came the deafening horn and sirens from the fire department. It wasn’t long before I discovered the cause of the hubbub. The roof on the old Masonic Temple had collapsed. There was silence for a while. The day grew noisier as it wore on. Excavators worked their shovels until at day’s end; the relic was a pile of rubble. And that got me to thinking.

The old Masonic Temple was a landmark in our warm-hearted city, dating back to 1906. Soon after the Masons moved out, someone I know looked at the property with an eye to renting it.  It was obvious even back then that the building made up in charm for its lack of modern amenities. With its distinctive tinwork as well as its rectangular meeting hall with theatre seats, it had the power to deliver nostalgic emotion. But the reality of sawdust insulation, decaying beams, and neglected wiring and plumbing turned a rational mind in another direction in a hurry. Despite its place on the National Register and dreams for a dinner theatre or banquet hall, the old temple languished for years on a list of property for sale, left to its own demise, given only a nod or two by passersby. I can see parallels with the story of the old temple and my story of becoming Martha.

I was largely fashioned from a dorm door that was put up for sale at a UAF surplus auction many years ago. In that state, I looked like a hunk of good wood to the man who purchased me.  He thought to himself, “that’d make a good table, or something.” Not a bad deal. So, door that I was, I was shoved into the back of a pickup truck and relegated to a shed away from the elements for many dusty years. When the need for me arose, he said, “I think I have just the thing—I have a dorm door that would make a good Martha.” And so my life as Martha began. In my early days I had done good duty as a solid core door; open and shut countless times, sentinel to good study habits and bad, as well as a few more unmentionable activities. Students had carved their initials on my exterior and I bore those tattoos until I was sanded down for my stint on the street. I was a throwaway when my life as a door was over, but fortunately this man saw a future for me, even before he knew what that future was. He knew I was worth salvaging; he knew there would be another purpose for me.  I was safe and dry, cobwebs not withstanding. Never would I have imagined that I’d be here on the corner of Third and Cushman all these 20 years, greeting thousands of people as they come and go.  It’s a heady thing!

I wish the Masonic Temple had experienced the same fate. I wish at least the façade could have been spared, but coming down as it did, with a bang not a whimper, time had run out for the old place. There is a lesson in this for all of us. We need to be aware of what is around us and care for it as best we can. Maybe we can hear the moan of the Masonic Temple as a call to action because right down the street there are two other historic buildings for sale. What would happen if we embraced them and brought them to new life, kind of like I was when I was repurposed from the dorm door?  Let’s put our glasses on. Hindsight is 20/20. It’s just a thought.