As Bozeman was settled during the Civil War and following years, many men who emigrated came from areas where Masonry was prevalent and they brought their memberships with them. When the the Grand Lodge of Montana was formed in 1865, Bozeman Masons immediately petitioned to form a new Lodge and Gallatin Lodge #6 was formed. By 1872 it was clear that Union sympathizers were often rejected for membership in Gallatin Lodge #6. With the support of many local Masons a petition was placed for a second Lodge in town and Bozeman Lodge #18 was formed. Being the junior Lodge, #18 made due with rented and temporary accommodations in which to hold meetings and events. Locations included Gallatin #6’s then newly built Lodge Hall and Oddfellows Lodge. This building was destroyed by the natural gas explosion a few hears ago.
By 1915, the Bozeman area Masonic groups found accommodations in a private meeting hall above the Golden Rule and later Chambers Fisher department store next to the Ellen Theater. Rent was shared among the various groups and the accommodations provided adequate rooms for meetings and dinners. A search was continually held for a facility to purchase. By the end of word war 2 the Storey family offered the Masonic groups an opportunity to purchase one of the Storey commercial buildings located at the corner of Main and Tracy. This building was constructed in the 1890’s and was owned by Nelson Story Jr who was a member of Bozeman Lodge when he passed away in 1932. The purchase of $185,000 was completed by 1948 and renovations began with Lodge member Fred F Willson, the renowned local architect, taking the lead in the design of the new rebuilding into the Temple. The result was the modern looking design and that was well adapted to the needs of the Masonic groups. The 7 retail spaces on the ground floor provided income from the beginning to support the needs of the entire building. The Tracy Temple was widely used as a community meeting place with several local groups using the dining and dance floor.
The initial mortgage was paid off by 1971 with the Story family donating the last $10,000 of the note. By 1980 Bozeman’s downtown was in a downturn as many of the Main St standbys like Woolworth, Penney’s and others moving to the newly constructed Mall on the west end of town. The noise of traffic and the cost of heat loss out the front windows lead to them being covered over with stucco in 1982. The building sat in this closed off state for many years. Groups were active inside but they were cut off from the eyes of the downtown around them. The caretakers of the building used rental income to do regular work on and update the interior of the building. New energy efficient windows in the dining room, air conditioning, and new carpets and paint were among the projects.
In 2014 as a new generation was coming to the roles of caring for the Temple, new ideas about the restoration of the facade and building were discussed. Finally the need to replace the aging elevator requiring a larger shaft and therefore a major remodel spurred the caretakers to look at an update. A grant from the Downtown Business Partnership enabled the consulting with local architect firm CTA to formulate a plan to restore the facade and rebuild the lobby, restroom and kitchen areas. What you see today is the midpoint of this plan. The facade, lobby and restrooms are newly done, a new commercial kitchen will follow in the coming years.
With the rebirth and vitality of downtown Bozeman we are proud to reintroduce our facility for use by local businesses and for community and private events.