Concord’s historic Masonic Temple makes moves to recapture lost glory

By Peggy Spear on June 10, 2013

Thanks to the tireless efforts of some local historians, Concord’s once-and-future dance hall will again be open for business when the Concord Masonic Temple becomes the Concord History Museum and Resource Center sometime in the next few years.

All it took was a decade of planning, a lawsuit, an economic downturn, a $1 sale and the latest effort – moving the actual Galindo Street building across Clayton Road.

Early in the morning on Saturday, May 25, construction crews moved the 85-foot-long by 50-foot-wide temple, weighing almost 300 tons, 1,200 feet to its new site.

The Masonic Temple was built in 1927 by local craftsman Laurence Perry. It served as a community center, hosting both meetings and socials. From the early 1930s through the 1960s, the building was “the spot” for local dances, attracting big bands from San Francisco and Oakland, and even a 12-year-old musician named Dave Brubeck.

“Generations of Concord residents danced here,” says former Concord Historical Society President Lloyd Crenna, who is overseeing the move.

The Masonic Order sold the building in the mid-1990s, and the Galindo Street land surrounding it was slated for redevelopment. Ultimately, the building was to be razed, Crenna says.

“The developers offered to take some pictures and place them in the lobby of one of the new buildings,” he said. “The Historical Society didn’t think that was adequate, so we filed a lawsuit to preserve the building.”

In a strange stroke of luck, the economic downturn in 2009 caused DeNova Homes, the developer, to pull out of the deal, and the city of Concord sold the temple back to the historical society for $1 – with the stipulation that it would be moved and turned into a museum.

That was three years ago, says John Montagh, economic development and housing manager for the city of Concord.

Despite the miniscule cost of obtaining the property, the preparation for and moving of the building has been anything but cheap or easy. Much of the historical society’s time and a chunk of the money they had raised for projects like this were spent on work on the Galindo House and Gardens, and it wasn’t until last year that they were able to turn their attention to the Masonic Temple, Crenna says.

Between preparation costs, lumber and bracing before the move, and electrical and plumbing construction afterwards, the project ate up most of the $400,000 the society had left after the Galindo House repairs. And getting the temple up to 21st Century standards – both in aesthetics and structure, such as making it earthquake safe – can cost up to $1 million, Crenna says.

At least that is the target the historical society will use when it launches a fundraising drive for the new museum next week.

“When this is all done, we will have a fantastic museum and resource center upstairs, and a great social venue with a stage, for performances and dances, downstairs,” Crenna says. “It will be just like it was in its heyday.”

 

The annual Summer at the Galindo social will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. June 23 at the Galindo property, 1721 Amador Ave., Concord, next door to the relocated Masonic Temple. The $20 ticket includes a catered lunch. For more information, call 925-827-3380.

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