Etna’s Evening Star
No. 186 lodge succumbed to fire in December, but there is now a plan to rebuild the historic piece of the town’s identity.
On Dec. 8, a fire almost completely destroyed the lodge, leaving smoldering beams and little else. Etna Fire Department Chief Alan Kramer said Monday that an investigation eliminated a number of possibilities, leaving the most probable culprit old wiring under sufficient stress.
Kramer said that the use of the lodge’s heating system to keep the bathroom water lines from freezing likely overloaded the wiring, leading to the fire.
According to Evening Star member Demetri Iannios, the group is expecting to set up a donation page through the Order of the Eastern Star grand lodge’s website that will ask Masons nationwide to support the rebuilding effort.
There is no estimate on how long it will take to rebuild the lodge, according to Iannios, who said Monday that the lodge was not insured at the time of the fire. He explained that the time frame for rebuilding depends on how quickly funds can be raised.
The loss of the building was accompanied by the loss of over a century of history, according to Iannios, who said that numerous important documents and artifacts were also destroyed in the blaze. “We lost a lot of history there,” he said.
That history reaches as far back as 1876, when the lodge was built. Iannios explained that before the fire, the building was one of only four original Gold Rush-era lodges; now only three retain that distinction.
Iannios said that the book of names of all lodge members dating back to 1876 was destroyed, along with a plaque listing all of the past lodge masters.
Iannios said that in addition to the physical reconstruction there is also a historical rebuilding underway, with the lodge asking the public for information about family members who were Evening Star members, and for photos of lodge events.
Iannios said that in the future, copies of information and memorabilia will be kept in an alternate location to prevent another total loss. “We’ve learned a lot from this experience,” he said.