CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Masonic Temple building is an artistic gem in the center of downtown Charleston -- and it's quickly becoming an artists' center, as well.
Jeffrey Thomas, an investment adviser and chairman of the board of trustees of the Masonic Temple building, has been working with several artists to find the right fit for them in his building.
"We're working with artists who need spaces to work; the Masonic Temple is opening its doors for all of the artists in the area," Thomas said. "We're offering great rents, some as little as $65 a month, to make this work"
Thomas pointed out the building's history of housing artists - the late Bernie Wiepper worked in the building for years, and the Charleston Ballet and the American Academy of Ballet are located on the first floor.
"We give them way-below-market rent -- started them out even lower," Thomas said. "It's our way of making a contribution to the arts in Charleston."
Charleston radio personality "Jeanne K" Cochran works for Kanawha Pastoral Counseling and V100, yet finds time for her watercolors and acrylics and is a member of Allied Artists and exhibits at Tamarack. When she was looking for a place where she could create her art, she landed at the Masonic Temple building.
"The room has an abundance of natural light, which is so important for an artist," Cochran said. "I really like the building, not only because of its great Hale Street/downtown location, but the building itself is fantastic. The architecture is amazing, the building is well-maintained and cared for, and there seems to be this warm feeling of energy and history inside."
Artist Adrianne Galloway is opening a gallery in the building, and Thomas is helping Allied Artists president Newman Jackson, a former 1033 Quarrier St. tenant, with a space to use for the October ArtWalk.
The iconic building, with its mysterious Masonic history, opened in 1897. According to local historian Richard Andre, a fire caused by lightning in 1914 made a total restoration necessary. Some of the undamaged interior elements of the original building were incorporated in the present building, which was completed in 1916.