Masonic Temple (1897)

also known as Freemasons Hall

A five-story red brick former Freemasons hall in very good historic condition converted to commercial space in the 1980s

About this Property

#Redevelopment

The Masonic Building is a 6 story, 41,327 SF condominium building. Property management has upgraded it over the years to include a recently refurbished lobby and digital tenant/owner directory.

The first Masonic Temple was built at this location, constructed from 1884 to 1886 and designed by William R. Walker. It suffered a catastrophic fire in 1896, and was immediately rebuilt with a new design by Fred. E. Field (1861–1931).

You will notice in the photos that the third and fourth floors are split and asymmetrical, with tall round-arch-topped windows on the left side of the Dorrance Street façade and two-levels of rectangular windows on the right. Masonic halls would typically include an auditorium-like gathering space, and this building must have featured a two-story one on the third floor. We are unsure if it is intact or has been split into a multi-level condominium.

The Masons were going to move into bigger quarters by 1928, when the new Masonic Temple was supposed to have been completed. Instead, they stayed at this location until the 1960s. This building, presumably, was vacant for about 20 years before finding a new life as commercial space.

When the Garrahy Complex was constructed next door — designed by Robinson Green Beretta, completed in 1980 at a cost of $10 million1 — the demand for nearby office space increased. The former hall was converted to condominiums. By 1982, a unit was sold to Tyler Smith for about $61,0002 (about $187,216 today). In 1983, another unit sold to Manasett Corp for $135,0003 (about $414,000 today).

Since then, a few of the condominiums have changed hands. The building’s ground floor units have housed many restaurants over the years as well. It has remained in good repair and continues to be a historic gateway building on the edge of the financial district.

#History

Insurance Maps:

From the National Register nomination form for the Downtown Providence Historic District, prepared by William McKenzie Woodward, Principal Historic Preservation Planner, 1984

123-131 Dorrance Masonic Temple (1897,1980): Fred E. Field, architect. 5-story masonry structure with irregular plan (to fit lot); walls fully articulated only on Dorrance and Pine Street elevations; unaltered 1st-story, cast-iron storefronts with engaged Tuscan columns separating plate-glass windows; upper stories organized around colossal Corinthian pilasters on piers; corbeled bracketed cornice; interior renovated for office space in 1980. Built to replace the original Masonic Temple (1884-86); William R. Walker, architect) on this site and demolished by fire in 1896, this building was abandoned in the 1960s for a suburban location. Increased demand for office space Downtown and the relocation of the State Court complex to a nearby site made this an attractive building for rehabilitation as office space. One of the outstanding late 19th-century buildings in Providence, the Masonic Temple makes a fine gateway to the southern entrance of the central business district.

#In the News

Joseph M. Cerilli, 50; founder of Providence Land Company

Providence Journal July 9, 1996

Joseph M. Cerilli, 50, of Thomas Street, North Kingstown, a real estate developer, died Sunday at the home of his sons, Justin B. Cerilli and Wiley P. Cerilli, and daughter Anna Cerilli, of Providence.

Born in Providence, a son of the late Benedetto A. and Mary (Mainella) Cerilli, he had been a resident of Providence before moving to Wickford four years ago.

Mr. Cerilli was the founder of Providence Land Company, which successfully restored and rehabilitated many buildings in Providence. An erstwhile member of the Providence Redevelopment Agency, he was one of the initial inductees into the Providence Preservation Society Hall of Fame, and in 1986 received a Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, for restoration of the Old Providence Journal Building. Some of his other restoration projects include the Masonic Temple Building on Dorrance Street, the Hanley Building, and the reconstruction of Sakonnet Harbor. He was also a developer of the former Shooters waterfront cafe at India Point.

Cerilli was considered a potential witness in the coming bribery and racketeering trial of former Gov. Edward D. DiPrete and his son, Dennis. According to a 24-count grand jury indictment, the DiPretes accepted a bribe from Cerilli and convicted embezzler Joseph Mollicone Jr. in connection with a state lease of office space in the Old Providence Journal Building in 1985. The charge has not been proven, and the DiPretes have pled innocent to all counts.

Cerilli and Mollicone, who co-owned the old newspaper building at 60 Eddy St., were partners in several high-profile developments in the mid 1980s.

Cerilli was a 1970 graduate of Roger Williams University, later serving on its Board of Trustees.

He was a member of the Sakonnet Golf Club, Sakonnet Yacht Club, Agawam Hunt Club and Turk’s Head Club.

Besides his sons and daughter in Providence, he leaves another daughter, Bridget Redding of Denver, Colo.; two brothers, Benedetto A. Cerilli Jr. of Jamestown and Peter J. Cerilli of Barrington; a sister, Barbara Mueller of East Greenwich, and a companion, Kathryn Rappleye.

A memorial service will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Central Congregational Church, 296 Angell St., Providence.

“Joseph M. Cerilli, 50; founder of Providence Land Company.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. NEWS, 9 July 1996, pp. D-04. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/15251FE8FAA9DA50. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

  1. RGB website. Accessed October 1, 2022 at https://www.rgb.net/project/garrahy-judicial-complex/. 

  2. “Providence records.” Providence Journal (RI), CITY ed., sec. NEWS, 21 Oct. 1982, pp. C-3A. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525C3C50CAE1BE8. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022. 

  3. “Providence records.” Providence Journal (RI), CITY ed., sec. NEWS, 4 Aug. 1983, pp. C-3A. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525C28025B9A760. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.