Masonic Lodge demolished

Published 10:58 pm Monday, October 24, 2011

An excavator pours the last of the rubble from the demolished Masonic Lodge in Hobson into a waiting dump truck on Monday afternoon. The building was destroyed after numerous code violations went unaddressed.

City officials demolished the historic Masonic Lodge in Hobson on Monday morning after police arrested two women who barricaded themselves inside the building in a last-ditch attempt to save it.

The city had scheduled the circa 1912 building for demolition after numerous code violations were not addressed. A request for an injunction against demolition filed by former owner Mary Hill was set for a hearing in November after being continued last week.

Hill, who is the director of the Suffolk African American Cultural Society Inc., which currently owns the property, and another woman, Angela Harris, locked themselves in the condemned building when demolition crews arrived. After they refused to leave, city spokeswoman Debbie George said, police forced entry to the structure and removed Hill and Harris from the property. Both were charged with trespassing and interfering with a city official or employee. Police remained on scene throughout the day.

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“We barricaded ourselves in the building for the sake of justice,” Hill said later in her home nearby. The beeps and clangs of demolition equipment could be heard as she talked.

Several residents gathered in a parking lot across the street to watch the process.

“It looks better,” said Tim Holland. “It’s the improvement we’ve been looking for.”

In April, a city inspector cited 12 code violations on the historic building, including failure to repair the metal roof, steps, chimney, exterior surfaces, windows and doors. It was also cited as an “unsafe structure” and “dilapidated vacant structure.”

John Thrower, who also watched the demolition, said the entire building shifted and fell as soon as the machinery touched one corner of the structure.

“The city was totally correct in what they did,” he said.

With tears in her eyes, Hill — who has owned the building since 2000 — said she would have repaired the property, but the city expressed interest in helping to preserve it — a plan that never came to fruition.

“It wasn’t like I was sitting back allowing property to be dilapidated,” she said. “I would have had that building fixed.”

When she moved back to Hobson in 1999, she said, she was more concerned with helping neighbors who still used outhouses obtain plumbing in their homes than with fixing the Masonic Lodge.

“I was too busy going about being my brother’s keeper,” she said. “Eleven years ago, I was taking care of everybody.”

Other buildings owned by Hill were torn down by the city in March.