ZANESVILLE— Plans are in motion to demolish an iconic Zanesville building full of history and culture after it was ravaged by fire on Thursday night.
On Friday, the Masonic Temple would have been the center of the city’s First Friday Art Walk activities as artists share their studios and latest creations with the public, but now all that remains of the beloved building is a skeleton of steel, stone and brick.
Many artists were in and out of the building throughout the day Thursday in preparation for the monthly event.
One man was still inside when the fire began to overwhelm the third floor.
Police who arrived on scene first were unable to reach him and had to retreat and wait for the fire department to raise a ladder to an open window where the man waited to be rescued.
He made it out safely along with some of the cats he was attempting to save before the fire put his own life at risk.
No one was injured in the fire.
Still, the community is in shock as they mourn the loss of so many businesses and memories held in the temple, as well as the beauty of the building itself.
The fire started around 11 p.m. Thursday night, and halfway through Friday smoke can still be seen billowing from a distance.
It took the assistance of every fire department in Muskingum County to keep flames from spreading to the neighboring county jail
More than 100 inmates were evacuated from their cells and moved to the Muskingum County Courthouse, which is connected to the jail by a skywalk tunnel.
Many have since been relocated to various jails in the surrounding counties until it is safe to return, while others were released Friday morning.
One man dressed in a gray sweatsuit and carrying a plastic bag with his belongings raised his arms in celebration of his freedom only to be met with confusion upon a closer glance of his surroundings.
According to Zanesville Assistant Fire Chief Doug Hobson, no one can return to the jail until the seven-story Masonic Temple building is demolished, or at least knocked lower than the jail.
Engineers met with city and county officials to determine a plan of action earlier Friday.
The goal is to start demolition as soon as proper state permits are obtained, Muskingum County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jadwin said.
Hobson was hopeful to have clearance to begin work as soon as midnight Saturday.
As for the many businesses once homed in the Masonic Temple, the community is rallying together with new fundraising efforts sprouting every hour to aid those who lost their livelihoods.
Among those businesses are art studios, a law firm, property agencies and a bail bonds agency.
Some gathered across from the Masonic Temple Thursday night and watched in silence as it all burned away to nothing.
“It’s an icon of a building that’s disappearing in front of our eyes,” building manager Bob Grayson said as he shivered in the cold.
Before the building became the hub for Zanesville’s art community and small businesses, it was once the gathering place for Lodge of Amity No. 5 Free and Accepted Masons.
Construction of the building began in 1902 and was completed in 1912, giving it historical significance to be recognized by the Nation 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 that point.
“It’s an effort from the whole county 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 keep the fire from spreading.
For firefighters, Bell said a fire downtown is “kind of in some ways a nightmare scenario.”
A cause has not been determined.
Businesses surrounding the Masonic Temple were ordered to close Friday so fire crews could continue their work.
Buildings on the same block as the Masonic Temple, including the courthouse and law administration building, are without power.
Electricity is not expected to be restored until Tuesday, Hobson said.
This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: Zanesville’s historic Masonic Temple to be demolished after fire