A Second Life

“A gem, hidden in plain sight” is an accurate way to describe the Mason Dallas in Oak Cliff.

A block from Jefferson Boulevard, this building seemed invisible for many years. Once the Oak Cliff Masonic Lodge, the structure was acquired by Très LA Group, a hospitality company based in Los Angeles whose founder, Alan Dunn, is a Dallas native.

Très LA Group converted the lodge into an events venue, opening it for weddings and receptions in 2020.

Over a century earlier, in 1919, Herbert M. Greene, a Mason himself, designed the building. By 1923, the lodge housed Texas’ largest Masonic chapter, with about 1,900 members, according to the Texas Historical Commission. Greene also was the architect for some of Dallas’ most recognizable structures such as the Neiman-Marcus Building, the Arts District Mansion (formerly known as the Belo Mansion), and The Dallas Morning News building. In 1922, he was chosen as the architect for the University of Texas.

When approaching The Mason Dallas, you are struck by the stark white facades of painted brick, previously unpainted with white only occurring at the water table. After ascending the curved steps to enter the building, you reach the piano nobile and are immediately greeted by a sense of timelessness. On this level a large reception hall, interrupted only by columns, figures most prominently, with walls of exposed original brick and windows looking out to the neighborhood.

On the floor above, two large rooms with 20-foot ceilings capture your attention. These rooms, the Grand Hall and the Drawing Room, were previously separated by a wall but are now open, marked by a row of tall columns and curtains between them. The Drawing Room, the smaller of the rooms, creates an intimate space, serving almost as an ante-space to the Grand Hall. Judging by the photos of the Grand Hall before the building’s renovation, many of the original details have been kept, most notably the frieze and guttae that wrap the tops of walls and beams. Columns, both engaged and freestanding, also have been preserved. Details that could have easily been removed to create a more neutral space were admirably spared and give this floor its unique historic character.

It is inspiring to see the conversion of a historic structure into something that gives it a second life. When the previous owners sold the property in 2004, the building could have been doomed. Instead, a renovation with attention to detail has ensured that a historic structure will remain within the built fabric of Oak Cliff for years to come.

Ricardo A. Muñoz, AIA is an associate principal at Page in Dallas and an instructor at Syracuse University.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2023 “Belonging” issue of AIA Dallas Columns magazine.

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