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Bay City Masonic Temple was almost completely rebuilt after fire in 1903. (Bay-Journal.com archives)

TEMPLE SAVIORS: Hildebrant and Meehan Make $100,000 Gift to Masonic Temple

June 29, 2017       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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One of Bay City's most iconic and historic buildings has found new life.

The high expenses of repairing a leaky roof and other needed repairs to the old Masonic Temple are now possible to meet because of a $100,000 gift from health care entrepreneur Rod Hildebrant and partner Matthew Meehan.

Hildebrant, who also is behind the Times Lofts and the new City Market, along with Meehan, have ridden in on white horses and are now seen as the saviors of a long-delayed improvement program at the 114-year-old classic structure at Madison Avenue and Sixth Street.

The gift can be likened to the community's heroic effort to rebuild the temple after a fire that destroyed it in 1903.

Mason and local business leader Rod Adams has sent MyBayCity.com a transcript of a Bay City Times article about the fire and the decision by the Temple Association to rebuild the interior, the outside walls having remained intact.

The Friends of the Historic Masonic Temple has received a substantial pledge of financial support from Rodney Hildebrant and Matthew Meehan. The couple has pledged $100,000 over three years to the organization. An initial installment of $35,000 has been provided to the Friends.

The gift was unrestricted, but the donors requested that it be used to support current uses and planned programming in the building. The Board of the Friends has directed that the initial installment be devoted to the following projects: completion of the new audio system; improvements in the men's restroom; to acquire a new projector and screen for movies and presentations; and to acquire stage lighting for musical and theatrical productions.

Dee Dee Wacksman, President of the Friends, stated "This generous gift will aid our organization in the development of new arts-related programming for our historic building. This will really help our young organization get on its feet. We cannot thank Rod and Matthew enough."

The Friends of the Historic Masonic Temple offers live music presentations, a monthly "Midnight Monster Movie," and recently announced the formation of a "black box theater" group for live theatrical productions. The theater group, Vanishing Elephant Players, will offer modern and experimental theater productions in the Temple Blue Room beginning in spring 2018. Vanishing Elephant Players will present a Speakeasy musical performance on July 22 in the Blue Room to raise funds for its first planned theatrical performance. The Temple is also annually made over as the Haunted Temple each October, a theatrical haunted house produced entirely by local students as one of the primary sources of operating funds for the building.

The Society for the Restoration and Preservation of the Historic Masonic Temple in Bay City, d/b/a The Friends of the Historic Masonic Temple, is a 501c3 charity which owns the Historic Temple at 700 N. Madison in Bay City. The Friends' mission is the preservation and restoration of this historic building through presentation of a variety of arts education and arts programming.

Interested persons and volunteers can request the monthly Friends of the Historic Temple Newsletter by sending an email to FriendsoftheMasonicTemple@gmail.com. You can also "Like" the Friends on Facebook.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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