“The greenest building is the one already built.” It is the phrase that Main Street Skowhegan Executive Director Dugan Murphy uses to illustrate the relationship between historic preservation and environmental sustainability.
In the case of his newly coordinated partnership, he is also making the connection to economic development.
When entrepreneur Katie Quinn told Murphy about her new product, Ass Over Teakettle Bloody Mary Mix, he connected her to Skowhegan Mason Frank Bolduc. “The Masonic Lodge building had unrealized potential. Katie Quinn needed a kitchen. The connection was obvious,” Murphy said.
Built in 1906, the Water Street three-story brick and wood colonial revival was purchased by the Masons in 1917. Hundreds of Masonic brothers, Eastern Star sisters, Demolay sons, and Rainbow Girl daughters have passed through its doors to enjoy communing with one another. Meetings, ceremonies, lessons, meals and the occasional game of pool have been held within its walls.
But decades of declining membership compounded with increasing maintenance costs resulted in a general trend toward underutilization and questionable sustainability for the Somerset Masonic Lodge. “If you asked me three years ago about the Lodge I would have said we’d be closed down by now, “ says Brother Bolduc, “Fortunately we got a call from Dugan one day.”
Adaptive reuse of downtown Skowhegan’s historic buildings is one of Main Street Skowhegan’s priorities – helping convert unused space into productive property and sharpening the competitiveness of business enterprises.
Cornville entrepreneur Katie Quinn had memories of eating staff lunches at the Lodge during the filming of Empire Falls more than ten years ago, so the space was somewhat familiar. After about $1,000 of investment and weeks of hard work, Quinn had the space licensed as a food-processing kitchen. A fresh coat of paint, carpet removal, and a commercial sink are among the renovations.
This paring of Katie Quinn and the Masons has been beneficial to both parties. Katie’s Ass Over Teakettle Bloody Mary Mix is now available in ten stores around Somerset and Kennebec counties. “We’re even in Portland! It’s been great. A lot of people out there are supporting their local stores,” she said.
The partnership has also paid off for the Masons with increased exposure to groups like the Rotary Club, who hosted a food event at the Lodge during Skowhegan’s Annual Maple Festival, and the Maine Downtown Center, who will be hosting a day-long workshop there in June.
The Masons also proudly share that three new members will be joining this month, “young guys, younger than me,” says Brother Bolduc. “We hope to host a public supper sooner than not. And, we want to be more visible in the community and participate in parades and possibly Moonlight Madness.”