Wood salvaged from Otto Masonic Temple will live on in other products

Dave Crowley waits as an excavator removes wood trim from the interior of the Clinton Paige Masonic Temple Lodge No. 620 in Otto Thursday. Crowley, a local woodworker, plans to transform the 150-year-old plus wood into a variety of wood products and furniture.

OTTO — The three-story brick Masonic Temple Building had been reduced to a single story of rubble on Thursday, but much of the interior woodwork will find new life in various wood products.

A Lakewood, N.Y., demolition company, H.H. Rauh, was the low bidder to take down the building after it was ruled unsafe by the New York Department of State, which issued a demolition permit. The contract was for $69,300.

Mark Burr, Cattaraugus County Public Works director of Engineering, told the County Legislature’s Public Works Committee on Wednesday that the second and third floors had to be removed by hand to keep from damaging a nearby structure. The mortar between the bricks was in very poor condition.

The building was constructed in the 1860s. Clinton Paige Lodge No. 620 received its warrant from the Masonic Organization in 1867.

After a Jan. 24, 1905 fire that destroyed the building housing Berean Lodge No. 811 in Cattaraugus, the two masonic groups merged and met at the Otto site on South Hill Road near Otto-East Otto Road.

“They had to take the two top stories down by hand, throwing armfuls of brick into the truck parked out front,” Burr said. An excavator was brought it to remove the rubble after the building was razed to the first floor.

When Dave Crowley, a local wood worker saw the structure was being demolished, he spoke to the company taking it down and made a deal for the interior wood.

He found white oak and red pine from old growth trees harvested in the 1850s. Other large pieces of trim may be beech, he said.

“I’ve got a lot of good wood out of here,” Crowley said. “You can’t throw this away,” he said pointing to the tight wood grain in some white pine.

“I’ve been coming here for a week getting wood,” Crowley said. “I even got some wallpaper.

All the good wood was loaded on a steel-wheeled wagon sitting out front. Bigger pieces were gently lowered onto the wagon using the excavator’s shovel. Crowley has a team of horses to haul it home.

Some of the wood will be sawed into timber for use in new mantles, cabinets, coffee tables and end tables, Crowley said.

Some of the Masonic artifacts that remained in the building were saved.

The county foreclosed on the property for nonpayment of back taxes, thinking it could be renovated under the county’s Land Bank Program. It turned out to be in much worse shape that first believed.

Initially, county officials thought the county would be stuck with the cost of demolition. As it turns out, said Burr, the Town of Otto is paying $38,000 of the cost, while the Masonic Organization of New York is paying $25,000. The county will end up paying about $6,300.

Burr said after the property is cleaned up, the county will give it back to the town.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)