By now, social media has ensured that most people in Texarkana know about the Regency building and the recent collapse of a front wall. If you don’t know about it, take a drive to downtown Texarkana, Arkansas and look for the blocked off section of the road. The top portion of the building fell in creating a safety hazard and concern for the pocket park and surrounding businesses. As is the case, it seems when any old building has issues, and the city seeks out the owner, the owner suddenly appears to be nowhere to be found. With no owner in sight, and a falling in building that the city may have to secure, the time to save a part of Texarkana history finally arrived.
For years the building was the location of Dillards before the move to the mall. It has been the home of several other businesses as well before it began to fall into a state of disrepair sometime in the early 1990s. That disrepair and lack of maintenance by the, now lost owners, seems to have contributed to the recent collapse. Another aspect of the building’s history is that while Dillards and other stores were housed downstairs, the upstairs was once the home of Texarkana Masonic Lodge #341. The lodge met upstairs for several years, and in the late 1970s, the group opted to purchase some land to build a new lodge building. By the early 1980s, the lodge moved to their current location at 4102 East 9th Street in Texarkana, Arkansas.
Like most moves, the lodge carried their furniture, pictures, charter, and other belongings to the new location. It was an exciting time of growth and expansion as the lodge moved into their new building at the 5-acre location. Unfortunately, there was one item the lodge could not take with them at the time.
Over time, some may have noticed that on the front of the Regency building, up high on the wall, was a small metal-looking emblem. The square and compass contains the letter “G” and is the symbol of Freemasonry. The little sign that marked the home of Lodge #341 had to be left behind because there was no way to obtain it.
Through the years the Lodge #341 had attempted to retrieve the symbol. Because of the same difficulties the city is now having in contacting the owners, the lodge was never able to obtain their property. Lodge member Mike Bunn noted that the lodge had access to a bucket truck at one time and city approval to take the symbol down. By that time, they could not reach the owner to discuss removing the symbol.
When the building fell in recently, it was apparent that the lodge symbol had gone with the collapsed wall. Members of the lodge assumed the metal symbol, and a significant piece of Texarkana history, as well as the Lodge #341’s history, had been lost. Contact was made with the city and arrangements were made to see if the symbol could be retrieved. While members of the lodge and community could not, and should not go into the restricted area, city officials could arrange for inspections, reviews, and preparations to remove the remainder of the building. Because city officials knew the desire to have the historic symbol back home with Lodge #341, they safely looked for an option to obtain the symbol.
Surprisingly, the galvanized sheet steel symbol was found together on top of the collapsed wall. City officials quickly obtained it before further damage could be done and turned it over to the lodge. The symbol is now safety secured, and preparations are being made to restore it, and display it at the lodge’s home.
While the collapsing of a downtown building is sad for the community, the work of Texarkana, Arkansas city officials and Texarkana Lodge #341 has ensured that the loss was not total for the community. By working together, a piece of Texarkana and Masonic history has been preserved and will be restored. The symbol, marking the first home for Lodge #341 has finally been taken to it’s rightful and new home where history will continue to be maintained for generations.
Texarkana Lodge #341 holds a charter in the state of Arkansas and is governed by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas. Texarkana continues to contribute to the community through charity work and scholarships. More information pertaining to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas may be found at their website (http://www.argrandlodge.com/).