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January 30, 2013
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Masons seek historic designation for Rifle lodge

Ron Roesener has a passion, and it's nearly 100 years old.

The Battlement Mesa resident is a third generation Freemason, the many-centuries-old, secretive men's organization that counts the father of our country as one of its first members. Roesener is the treasurer of the Rifle Masonic Lodge #129 and is heading up an effort to have the two-story lodge building at 421 Railroad Ave. declared a historic structure.

"I realized the other night that I really have a passion to see this happen," Roesener said. "It's history, Rifle's history. Look at all these people who were Masons over the many years" and gestured to rows of portraits of Mason masters running around the walls of the lodge's second floor meeting room.

Such a designation would also help the lodge qualify for grants to do some much-needed repair work, Roesener said.

"The mill work on the building is just beautiful," Roesener said during a tour on Monday. "If you take it down, sand and refinish it to a period finish, it would look even better. Those are the things we want to do."

A new roof and sign, new carpeting, paint and double-pane windows are other improvements the lodge has listed, Roesener added.

Roesener said the lodge has an anonymous donor willing to match a grant the lodge might receive to help fund the work.

On Tuesday night, the Rifle Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the lodge's request for designation as a local historic structure be approved by the city council as the first step in what Roesener said could be a year long process.

City planner Nathan Lindquist said other Rifle structures that are on the city's historical list include the former Ute Theater, the Midland building, Rifle House on Railroad Avenue and the Fulton house on Third Street and East Avenue.

"This has value to the community," Lindquist said during the tour. "There's a lot of history that happened here, so we want to help preserve it. It also sets up a process where any major alteration would have to be approved by the commission."

Roesener is also working with the Colorado Historical Society and Garfield County on the designation. Roesener said the state group has told him they would send an architect familiar with historical building designs to inspect the lodge building, once a grant application is received.

Main Street program coordinator Dana Ingram toured the building and said that program might also be able to have an architect inspect the building and suggest improvements.

The Post Office and the old bridge over the Colorado River are the only Rifle structures listed on the national historic registry, Lindquist said. Roesener said alterations made to the lodge's exterior prevent it from being on that list.

One possible issue that could prevent the lodge from receiving historic designation is whether the building's monetary and intrinsic value requires a fire sprinkler system. Colorado River Fire Rescue Fire Marshall Kevin Whelan told the commission a fire protection plan is commonly implemented when a building is declared historic.

Roesener said he was told the age of the building would allow it to be "grandfathered" in without the need for those improvements.

The lodge was granted its charter in 1908, and the Garfield County Assessor's office website lists the building's total value at $128,000, with an assessed value of $37,120.

The Rifle lodge has had as many as 389 members at any one time, but now lists around 40 or 50 active members, said secretary Jim Gerloff, who's been a Mason for 40 years.

The lodge has had some notable Masons visit, such as former president Teddy Roosevelt, Roesener noted.

"He'd stay at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs when he came out on a hunting trip," he said. "But he would visit, since he was a Mason. He liked the down home people in Rifle better than the folks at the Glenwood lodge."

Freemasons are not a specific faith-based organization, but are Christian-based, Roesener and Gerloff both said during the tour.

"Being a Mason has made me a better man and more spiritual," Roesener said.

The lodge meets on the second Saturday of each month and awards annual college scholarships to students from Rifle, Coal Ridge and Grand Valley high schools, he added.

A marble cornerstone in the building will be removed and replaced in June 2014, it's 100th birthday.

"We want to make sure Rifle has its lodge for the next 100 years," Roesener said.


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 30, 2013 04:59PM Published Jan 30, 2013 04:53PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.