Four months ago, Fitzgerald Real Property began the careful deconstruction of the Reno Masonic Lodge, Reno's oldest commercial building, in preparation for development on the site.
"We couldn't save the building as a whole because the structural integrity had deteriorated so significantly, but we have invested significant time and resources into salvaging and preserving as much of the interior wood beams and exterior bricks as possible," said Niki Gross, managing director of the Whitney Peak Hotel.
On Thursday, February 7, six weeks after the demolition began, contractors made a discovery, unearthing the original building's cornerstone, which according to records of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, was laid on October 1, 1872.
"The setting of the cornerstone - the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation - was an important ceremonial milestone, encapsulating a specific place in time that was significant in Reno's history," said Nathan Digangi, the Worshipful Master of Reno Lodge #13, one of 39 current lodges in the Grad Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the state of Nevada.
The developer is working with the Nevada Historical Society, the Masons and City of Reno and community leaders to evaluate options on where and how to display the cornerstone and its contents, according to Niki Gross, managing director of Whitney Peak Hotel, who is also overseeing the design and construction of the new development.
"Whitney Peak Hotel has played an important role in bridging Reno's rich past history with its bright future," said Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. "Their efforts to preserve and share with the public elements of this former landmark in Reno as they plan for future development are commendable."
Mayor Schieve presided over a public unveiling ceremony today at Cargo Concert Hall at Whitney Peak Hotel, along with members of the Nevada Historical Society, Historic Reno Preservation Society, and Reno Lodge #13. Showcased at the event were several gold coins, a harmonica and several historic paper documents.
"Sharing this link to Reno's past as we continue to contribute to its future was important to us," said Eric Olson, general manager of the Whitney Peak Hotel and a 32nd degree Mason himself.
Construction on the site is expected to be completed in mid-202 and will incorporate many of the same elements and share the amenities of its sister property. In a nod to its historical significance, the new building will also feature an interpretive display that chronicles the long history of the Masonic Lodge and Reno Mercantile, which occupied the space from 1895 through 1970.