Masonic Temple (Former Henry C. Lewis Art Gallery)
Located on the northeast corner of E. Chicago & N. Hudson Streets, the Historic Marker reads:
Masonic Temple side – The Tyre Lodge #18 Free and Accepted Masons and their female relatives formed the Order of the Eastern Star Chapter that became the oldest continuous Eastern Star chapter in the world. IN 1913, Coldwater Masons and Eastern Starts bought the Y.M.C.A. building that had been the H. C. Lewis Art Gallery. Architect Maurice Carney redesigned the Italianate style structure into a Mission style building.
H.C. Lewis Art Gallery side – Businessman Henry Clay Lewis and his wife, Alma, built the original part of this structure in 1869 to house their extensive art collection and make it available to the public. The Italianate building complemented the Lewis’s adjacent home. Upon Alma’s death in 1895, most of the art was donated to the University of Michigan in accordance with Henry’s will. The building served as a Y.M.C.A. from 1896 until 1913, when it became the Masonic Temple.
HISTORIAN NOTES (David McDonald):
H.C. Lewis Art Gallery – Henry Lewis was able to amass one of the most extensive art collections west of the New England states. Traveling abroad, he purchased, and had shipped back to Coldwater, several Mediterranean area marble statues. Several of these works can be seen adorning the grounds of the gallery. One of the initial actions of the Lewis estate was to offer the entire collection to the Village of Coldwater. Apparently, it did not seem feasible with the village’s budget to support and maintain the entirety of the building, grounds and collections, for they turned it down. Ultimately, a small portion of paintings and statues found their way to the Coldwater Library. The paintings collections were directed to the University of Michigan where they remained for several decades. Lewis acquired a painting of the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox, Virginia. A copy of a note from General Armstrong’s wife to Henry Lewis can be seen in the Branch County History Book, “Branch County, Then & Now, 1800 – 2016” discussing the quality of the painting to its characters’ details. I was told that the painting was given to the historic site in Virginia for perpetual display.
Masonic Temple – The Masonic Lodge holds a charter for the local organization that is dated April 1, 1847. During the growth period of the Masonic Ledge additional chapter were authorized in the community, but it was the original chapter that has spanned the bridge of time and remains active today. The Masonic Lodge acquired the old art gallery from the Y.M.C.A. in 1913. The very Italianate exterior was transitioned into Mission style architecture, and the Masons have maintained that appearance ever sense. The local organization was also home for the Knights Templar. The Templars also maintained a cottage complex on Morrison Lake for summer retreat by members. Noteworthy amongst visitors to the lake complex was Tarzan creator and author, Edgar Rice Burroughs.