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August 15, 2000

Shown Under Construction in 1924, the former Masonic Temple building at the northwest corner of the square is now for sale. Details in today’s Northwest Corner column. (Photo courtesy Archives & Manuscripts Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society.)

What's this I'm hearing? 'Our "Masonic Temple" is for sale and the gas company will no longer have an office here? Yes, it's all true, sad to say.

The Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. office at 419 Seventh Street will be closed on September 1, but local manager Harry Williams is staying on the job as the company's representative here. He remains the one to contact for customers' questions about service, business matters or anything else concerning the utility. I don't know how long our local gas company office has been in that location, but it's been there at least 70 years and it's always been kept in good condition. During that time it's been through several evolutions. The first name I remember for our local supplier is the Apache Gas Co. Then it became the Northern Oklahoma Gas Co., and for several years now it's been Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. The late Keith McQuiston was the local office manager for years, with Edna Daniels as his able and efficient office secretary, but others have followed since Mrs. Daniels passed away and Keith retired to become bookkeeper at The Perry Daily Journal. We're glad to know that Harry Williams will continue to live here and to represent ONG in this community.

The three-story building at the northwest corner of the square has been known as "the Masonic Temple" since it was built in 1924. That name was dropped 20 years ago when the Masonic organization sold the building to Victor Green and the fraternal order relocated to a new building on 25th street, a short distance south of Fir avenue. The habit of many years is hard to break, though, so many of us still think of it as the Masonic Temple. The attractive brick building was completed in 1924, according to the cornerstone and numbers etched in stone above the Egyptian pillars flanking the door at the west end of the north exterior wall.

Mr. and Mrs. Green have done considerable renovation and redecoration of the building, including new windows on the upper floors. The ground floor location's tenants include Chris' Pharmacy, now operated by Mrs. Earline Cockrum and her staff. Yvonne Green called attention to the fact that that part of the building has always been a drug store. At one time, in the 1940s, it was the Hamous & Hopper Pharmacy, operated by Merrill Hamous and Jim Hopper. Then A.J. Bontrager closed his store on the south side of the square, where municipal offices are now located, and took over the Hamous & Hopper location. When A.J. retired from the business, the late Chris Cockrum opened his store there, and now Mrs. Cockrum is heading the business.

The second floor once was the home of the Chamber of Commerce, an optometrist, a dentist, two physicians, attorneys, an oil and gas lease dealer, and others, but now the floor is vacant. On the third floor various Masonic organizations had their regular meetings and a fairly large theater was at the west end. At different times the theater was used by itinerant theatrical companies, road shows and even for short-lived movie presentations. Now only the first floor has tenants. Mr. and Mrs. Green have shown the property to some interested parties, so perhaps once again it will be fully used. Then, maybe, we'll have to find a new name and quit calling it the Masonic Temple.