ZANESVILLE – Plans are underway to demolish an iconic Zanesville building steeped in history and culture after it was devastated by fire on Thursday night.
The Masonic Temple was reportedly the center of the city’s First Friday Art Walk activity on Friday as artists shared their studios and latest designs with the public, but now all that remains of the beloved building is a skeleton of steel, stone and brick.
Numerous performers entered and left the building throughout Thursday in preparation for the monthly event.
A man was still inside when the fire started to invade the third floor.
Police who arrived at the scene first could not reach him and had to retreat and wait for firefighters to raise a ladder to an open window where the man was waiting to be rescued.
He escaped unharmed with some of the cats he was trying to save before the fire put his own life in danger.
No one was injured in the fire.
Still, the community is in shock as they mourn the loss of so many businesses and keepsakes in the temple, as well as the beauty of the building itself.
The blaze started around 11 p.m. Thursday night, and halfway through Friday, smoke can still be seen rising from a distance.
It took help from all of the Muskingum County fire departments to prevent the flames from spreading to the neighboring county jail.
More than 100 inmates were evacuated from their cells and transferred to the Muskingum County Courthouse, which is connected to the prison by a walkway tunnel.
Many have since been transferred to various prisons in surrounding counties until they can return safely, while others were released on Friday morning.
A man in a gray tracksuit and carrying a plastic bag with his belongings raised his arms to celebrate his freedom, but was confused as he took a closer look at his surroundings.
According to Zanesville Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hobson, no one can return to jail until the seven-story Masonic Temple building is demolished, or at least knocked down lower than the prison.
Engineers met with city and county officials to determine a course of action earlier Friday.
The goal is to begin the demolition as soon as the appropriate state permits are obtained, said Jeff Jadwin, director of emergency management for Muskingum County.
Hobson hoped to be cleared to start work as early as midnight Saturday.
As for the many businesses once housed in the Masonic Temple, the community is rallying and new fundraising efforts are sprouting hourly to help those who have lost their livelihoods.
These businesses include art studios, a law firm, real estate agencies, and a surety agency.
Some gathered in front of the Masonic temple on Thursday evening and watched in silence as everything burned down.
“It’s the icon of a building disappearing before our eyes,” said building manager Bob Grayson as he shivered with cold.
Before the building became the hub of Zanesville’s arts and small business community, it was once the meeting place for the Lodge of Amity No. 5 Free and Accepted Masons.
Construction on the building began in 1902 and was completed in 1912, giving it historical significance recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.
Zanesville Fire Chief Jeff Bell said the fire was burning through the roof when his department got the call.
Nothing could be done to save the building at this point.
“It’s a county-wide effort to help us try to contain it right now,” Bell said Thursday night.
The best that could be done was to attack each side of the building from above to prevent the fire from spreading.
For firefighters, Bell said a downtown fire is “kind of a nightmare scenario.”
A cause has not been determined.
Businesses surrounding the Masonic temple were ordered to close on Friday so firefighters can continue their work.
Buildings on the same block as the Masonic Temple, including the courthouse and the administration of the law building, are without electricity.
Electricity is not expected to be restored until Tuesday, Hobson said.