Demolition begins on fire-ravaged Masonic Temple in Aurora
Demolition work began Friday on the charred remains of the Lincoln Masonic Temple, a nearly century-old Aurora landmark destroyed this week by fire.
The city expects to complete the demolition of the five-story building within 50 days at a cost of up to $780,000. The project began with crews from St. Charles-based Alpine Demolition mobilizing equipment at the former masonic temple at 104 S. Lincoln Ave, a site atop a hill in a neighborhood on the city's near east side, not far from downtown.
A bystander reported the fire Monday night in the upper floors of the building, a grand structure that had been sitting vacant for more than a decade. The blaze left the building, an example of Neoclassical architecture, a total loss and a structural hazard.
The city has established a perimeter around the site with temporary fencing, road closures and police to keep onlookers away.
"Immediate deployment to the site was a top priority," Aurora Chief Development Officer John Curley said in a statement. "For the safety of the neighborhood and contractors, our goal is to first make the structure safe as quickly as possible before the process begins to remove the structure."
An environmental consultant also has arrived to install air-sampling monitors for the protection of those working on the project, according to a city news release.
"As a result of this incident, citizens have been concerned with potential health hazards," Aurora Fire Chief Gary Krienitz said in a statement. "There are no health or safety concerns threatening the public. Any potential hazards are confined to the building."
Krienitz said Tuesday fire investigators won't be able to safely go inside the brick and stone structure before demolition begins due to the risk of collapse. Police have said the cause of the blaze does not appear suspicious.
Most of the building will head for the wrecking ball with the notable exception of four large, west-facing columns at the main entrance. The city has decided to salvage the columns and the building's cornerstone, thought to contain a time capsule.
Built starting in November 1921, the temple opened in March 1924 as a lodge for groups within the Aurora Masonic Alliance, a collection of 10 fraternal organizations with nearly 1,000 members.
Designed by architect William Q. Bendus, the temple was built of steel, brick and wood, and had a facade of custom-formed cast concrete.
Masonic organizations sold the temple in the 1980s, and it was used as a banquet hall until it closed in 2006, according to Landmarks Illinois.
Property records with the Kane County recorder of deeds list Maria C. Vargas of Aurora as the property's most recent owner. Property records also show Kane County became trustee of the property on Aug. 23.
Curley said earlier this week that remediation will factor into the demolition costs and the city likely will lien the building when demolition work is complete.
"It does not appear that the property owner either has an interest in repairing it or has the wherewithal to get the demolition accomplished," he said.
During the entire project, the city will enforce road closures around the building. Benton Street will remain closed from Broadway Avenue to Fourth Street. Lincoln Avenue also will be closed from Downer Place to Clark Street.