OSKALOOSA — The Iowa Mason’s Benevolent Society Building, on the northeast corner of the square, is actually two buildings in one.
The building is the seventh to receive a historical marker in downtown Oskaloosa.
Ann Brouwer, who is on the steering committee for the marker project expressed her gratitude for the many community volunteers.
“We’re just thankful for this community project,” she said. “And it, in the truest sense, has been a community project.”
Oskaloosa Mayor David Krutzfeldt also expressed his appreciation.
“The people that are taking their time – they care and they’re showing their love for the community by doing this. So we owe them a lot of thanks as the project starts to wind up,” he said. “What it comes down to, is history if it’s undocumented, becomes history lost. So these are the efforts that are being made for us to help remember that this is the foundation upon which we’re all living today.”
Calvin Bandstra, who is the historical building marker research team leader shared some of the history of the building.
“The interesting part about this building is that it was built in two sections,” he said. “The one side was started in 1883 and completed in ‘84. The other was started in 1892 and completed in 1893.”
The building is a mix of architectural styles, Bandstra said.
“It’s a commercial building which possesses amix of Italianate and Victorian Romance elements. So when this building was built, it was built shortly after the courthouse,” he said. “You can see that it was kind of carbon copied. You’ve got the two types of brick, with the red and the white. And if you look over the windows, the arch is very similar to the arch on the middle row of the windows there. And that’s kind of the Victorian Romance style that goes with this building.”
Placed on lot 8 of lot 13, the building is 60 feet wide and 120 feet in length. Storefronts, Bandstra said, were usually 20 feet in width, accommodating three storefronts per lot.
The Iowa Masons Benevolent Society, Bandstra said, was an insurance company that was organized in Oskaloosa in 1876.
“Insurance in that era was a big luxury that very few people could buy, if you were the common person,” he said, “so it was very common for groups to get together, form a society, organize and spread the financial risk.”
Bandstra said many people remember the building as housing Alsop’s Department Store.
Building historian Lyle Seifering, of Hawkeye Real Estate, said Emily Russell, a member of the Alsop family, provided a lot of information.
There were several things, Seifering said, that stood out to him as unusual and different about the building.
“The construction that was built in two halves, that’s very unusual,” he said. “We had bought the building and started remodeling and started measuring, it didn’t take very long [to see] that this side was bigger than the other.”
Another highlight, Seifering said, was that the building was under the ownership of one family for 82 years.
“This building is 138 years old and it’s only had five owners and one of those was a foreclosure buyer,” he said. “So that’s, I think, a very unusual situation.”
Todd Roach also researched the Iowa Masons Benevolent Society Building, which is now home to Hawkeye Real Estate and Mahaska Title.
Previous buildings with markers include Trolly Place, the Frankel Building, the Centennial Block Building, The Iowa Building, the Mahaska County Courthouse and the Oskaloosa Fire Station. Remaining buildings include the Stapp Building and the Oskaloosa Public Library.