Crystal Lake foundation has big plans for Elgin's Masonic Temple
A Christian organization is fixing up the former Masonic Temple in Elgin -- which at one time held the city's largest auditorium -- and hopes to reopen it in about a year.
The Love Family Christian Foundation, based in Crystal Lake, wants to turn the building at 310 E. Chicago St., into a space for Christian-themed events, including worship, prayer and performing arts, classes in adult learning, leadership development, and even business incubation, said foundation chairman Michael Love.
"Elgin was one of those communities that the Lord just kind of lead us to," said Love, founding pastor of Trinity Baptist Community Church International in Crystal Lake. "When this facility became available, it just fit the calling."
Love said he and his family formed the nonprofit foundation, which bought the Elgin building in July 2014 for about $25,000 from Family Life Church, which was housed in the Eagle's Nest building next door and closed in late August.
Work has begun to repair water and mold damage, although the core of the 1923-era building is in "very good condition," Love said. "We won't fund (the full scope of the project) until we get private and public donors," he said. "We are taking our time."
The foundation wants to establish a variety of educational, community and Christian partnerships in the area, and has started preliminary discussions with Judson University, he said.
The building includes an auditorium designed to hold 1,260 seats, a gymnasium and movie theater on the fourth floor, and classrooms on the lower level, Love said. "It is a grand, beautiful facility," he said, adding the foundation has about 1,400 theater seats donated by a movie theater company. "It's got a lot of great history."
Bill Briska, president of Elgin Area Historical Society, said the classical revival-styled building hosted for decades high school graduations, concerts, lecture and other large events. Its architect was Ralph Abell of Elgin.
"The Masons were the biggest fraternal organization in town, and in other towns," he said. "Anybody who was anybody was a Mason."
Briska said he was happy to hear about the foundation's plans. "That building needs some use, because otherwise it's going to deteriorate," he said. "A building of that size needs a multifunctional purpose in order to sustain itself, and it takes a certain amount of business acumen to make that happen."
The building was sold in 1990 after the Masons could no longer afford to maintain it. Family Life Church made headlines in 2007 when it removed Masonic symbols from the outside of the building.
The Love Family Christian Foundation also owns a former Catholic school in Rockford donated by the Rockford Housing Authority, Love said. Plans for that building include hosting educational and skills training, business incubation and programs for youth, Love said.