Masonic Lodge sells downtown property, dedicates new Steamboat home
Members of Elk Mountain Masonic Lodge No. 118 were joined by officials from the Grand Lodge of Colorado on Saturday, April 22, for the dedication of a new meeting place in Steamboat Springs.
“It was really great,” said Ray Selbe, who has been a mason since the 1980s. “We had over 40 Masons at the event Saturday. I think there were eight Grand Lodge officers there that came from all over the state, and it was a great turnout and wonderful celebration.”
Freemasons are part of fraternal organizations that trace their origins to the local guilds of stone masons that date back to the end of the 13th century.
The Elk Mountain Masonic Lodge in Steamboat Springs was given a temporary charter in 1902 and then gained permanent recognition in 1904. The group had met at 111 Eighth Street for 102 years before selling its downtown location last year.
Worshipful Master David Moran said the downtown location was great, but the expense of maintaining the space had become burdensome, and the increasing insurance rates for the property were too much for the nonprofit group to sustain. Today, Elk Mountain Masonic Lodge has between 35-40 members and is too small to cover costs with dues.
“Last year we sold our building in downtown,” Moran said. “We had the upstairs for over 100 years, but we couldn’t afford it anymore.” The bottom floor of the building has been home to a number of businesses over the years and was not owned by Masonic Lodge.
When the members started looking for alternatives, Selbe stepped to the plate with an idea.
Selbe, a practicing blacksmith, was building a shop where he could properly display a collection of blacksmithing tools he has been accumulating for several years. When the topic of the lodge needing a new location came up, he offered to build a mezzanine where the members could meet.
“We were building a new blacksmith shop, and suddenly we needed a place for the lodge,” Selbe said. “So we built a mezzanine level in the new blacksmith shop for the lodge.”
The new Elk Mountain Masonic Lodge is located above Selbe’s shop on his ranch located at 25245 County Road 42. The 900-square-foot lodge is built on the mezzanine level of the 1,800-square-foot blacksmith shop.
“It’s getting a lot of attention from Masons around the country because it’s so unusual and unique,” Moran said. “A lodge really isn’t a building; a lodge is the Masons who make up the building.”
Moran said that Freemasonry is not rooted in religious beliefs. He said the focus of Freemasonry is creating an observable way of life through education, moral standards, charity and community involvement. In Colorado, Freemasons support band camps, scholarships and children’s identification programs. The Freemasons have organizations open for men, women, couples and children.
“We take the tools of the operative mason, and we teach speculative lessons,” Moran said of the organization. “We teach life lessons and morals around the operative’s tools, and so that’s the beauty of Freemasonry.”
The completion of the lodge put a smile on Selbe’s face not only because it gave the Masons a new place to meet, but because it ensures the organization still has a home in Steamboat Springs.
“My grandfather and my dad and uncles were all Masons — it was a family tradition, I guess,” Selbe said. “There were a lot of memories in that downtown location, but now we’ll make new memories.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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