Clues in the Flooring

There are no extant architectural drawings of the Ferris Grand Block, or its opera house design.  Its original layout is a mystery.  Presumably, the auditorium took up the entire width, of the building, given the clear span roof framing, whereas the existing Lodge room does not.  According to contemporary descriptions, the former layout included four separate office spaces at the front of the building overlooking the street that were occupied initially by Drs. Alex & Will Brown.  The existing stairway from street level provided access to the auditorium, but did it also serve the front offices?  A curious change in floor level suggests maybe not.

At the storage area below the third-floor stairway, accessed from the Masonic anterooms, the original flooring is visible, and it is four inches below the current floor level of the rest of the second floor.  It does not align with the floor level reached by the main stair from street level.  It is possible instead that the front offices were served by the stairwell between the Ferris Grand building and the Mackay building, which now only serves the Mackay building.  The existing stair to the third floor probably did not exist, but rather the balcony level was served by multiple stairways within the auditorium space itself. 

During the 1917 remodeling, the Masons built new partitions on top of existing maple finished flooring, as evidenced at the store room adjacent to the kitchen, which implies the second floor at the level of the original main floor of the opera house.  However, original newspaper accounts describe a “raised floor” for the fixed seats of the auditorium, which implies a sloping floor, which may or may not have extended throughout the space.

The opera hall balcony was probably originally a sloping balcony, and the existing third floor was probably entirely new built in 1917.  Typical of frugal remodelers of every period, the Masons reused materials from the opera house, at least in locations in the building where it would not detract from the grand design of the new Lodge.  In the third floor “locker room,” the flooring is salvaged flooring from the old balcony: there are row numbers on the fir boards in scattered locations. 

Opera House seating numbers on the reused flooring on third floor.

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