WILKES-BARRE — The ceiling lay on the floor inside the lobby of Masonic Temple Wednesday and soot coated the interior, a day after a smoky fire damaged the historic, four-story building.
Contractors were busy making repairs, airing out the building and removing debris as Ralph Isely, secretary of the Masonic Association, coordinated the cleanup.
“I’ve been through the building from top to bottom,” Isely said Wednesday.
The lobby area sustained the most damage, he said. That’s where the investigation is focused to determine the cause and manner of the fire. Yellow tape marked off an area just inside the front entrance on North Franklin Street.
“The fixtures, the lighting fixtures melted off the walls. The plaster ceiling is down. The plaster work on the ceiling and wall, that’s all down,” Isely said. The upper floors are coated in soot.
“Everything has to be cleaned from top to bottom,” Isely said.
At 88, he’s been a longtime member and 10 years younger than the building. Its cornerstone reads 1916 and the structure is part of the River Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
The building is insured and sees regular use by three Masonic Lodges. A meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday night.
Firefighters were cognizant of the building’s history, said Wilkes-Barre City Fire Department Chief Jay Delaney.
“We really tried to limit damage to the building,” Delaney said.
Still the interior was a mess and the cost to repair the damage was unknown Wednesday.
The goal is to return the lobby to its original condition, Isely said, adding, “I don’t know how close we’re going to get to that” given the detail of the decorative plaster work.
He estimated the building will be closed for three to four months.