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Masonic Temple and Watts Ritter Wholesale Dry Goods Company (River Tower)

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River Tower
1912–1914, Wilbur T. Mills. 1922, 1926, Meanor and Handloser. Northeast corner of 3rd Ave. and 11th St.
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

An unlikely combination of fraternity and commerce occupies what is ostensibly a seven-story office building, faced with several shades of brick that, on the end bays, are arranged to simulate quoining. The terra-cotta cartouche above the elaborate entrance is decorated with laurel leaves that surround a stained glass panel depicting the Masonic emblem. Paired Ionic columns that define the three central bays of the top two floors give an architectural clue that something important may lie behind. So it does. The main lodge room still retains its original design and fittings, including a prosceniumarched stage with painted backdrops. A balcony that surrounds the other three sides of the room contains folding wooden chairs with wire hat racks underneath. Architect Mills, from Columbus, Ohio, enjoyed a number of West Virginia commissions.

The 1920s addition (first five stories, 1922; top two stories, 1926), clad in darker brick, is easily discernible as the easternmost three bays. Side and rear elevations overlooking the railroad tracks (and Heritage Village) abandon the pretense of architecture and reveal the strictly utilitarian nature of a jobbing warehouse. The addition, renovated as office space, is now known as River Tower.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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