For some -- local preservationists, say, or music fans -- one of the biggest stories of 2011 was First Presbyterian Church's purchase of 508 Park Avenue; at last, the long-ago Brunswick Records regional office in which Robert Johnson, Bob Wills and possibly Charlie Parker recorded no longer had that hellhound on its trail. Just this morning, the Rev. Dr. Bruce Buchanan, First Presby's associate pastor, told me plans for its redo -- which will include a recording studio -- continue apace.
"It's moving along very positively," Buchanan tells Unfair Park. "We meet every week. We have funding in place to do what we proposed to do when we went to Landmark Commission and are looking at a full range of possibilities, including the stdio, which is very much a part of the plan, along with a museum. We've brainstormed about this whole quadrant of downtown, and we hope what we do at 508 Park will be the genesis of a rebirth of the area."
Which brings me to the reason I called Buchanan in the first place: There have been rumors circulating in recent days that First Presby is also eying the adjacent Masonic Temple on Harwood, which has been on and off the market since 2006 and remains listed on LoopNet for $2.5 million. Till this week, matter of fact, a for-sale sign's been in front of the building near the downtown farmers market. It came down just yesterday.
But, no, Buchanan says: The church had looked at purchasing the 70-year-old building, but eventually backed off. "It's a beautiful building, and the inside is wonderful too, and for the right purpose and the right user it would be a wonderful home," he says. "But we're not actively looking. We're focusing on 508 and the property surrounding it."
A few phone calls later I discovered that the building's off the market because it's now in the hands of the historic Tannehill Lodge, which was organized in Dallas in May 1849 and is considered the city's "mother lodge."
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"Tannehill Lodge 52, along with some others, bought them out on the temple," secretary Gary Hill told me this morning. "There was some talk of a contract with First Presbyterian, and that hasn't happened. Now, if somebody walked in with a whole lot more money than we wanted, we'd sell to them." He laughs. "But we've been comfortable here for a long time, and we're not planning on going anywhere."