Henry Hanford Wakeman wasborn in New York in 1840, came to Waterville and became a successful businessman, but died of consumption at the age of 38. He had conceived the idea of a Masonic Lodge for Waterville while he was a member of Northern Light Lodge in nearby Maumee. The formation was accomplished in 1879 and the Lodge named after him. He left a bequest of $1,000 to be used toward the construction of a meeting place. He also left $1,000 to Waterville Township for the care of the local cemetery, thereafter called Wakeman Cemetery.
Although the population of Waterville was only 382 in 1880, the 15 distinguished members of the Wakeman Lodge #522 F. & A.M. (Free and Accepted Masons) were able to raise additional funds through donations and loans to begin construction of a building/temple. The impressive two-story brick structure was built and furnished for $4,400.22. The cornerstone of Wakeman Hall was laid in the fall of 1880, and the building dedicated on October 21, 1881. With its activities and central location it began an important role in the life of the village.
An Eastern Star chapter was given permission to begin meeting in the upper room in 1904. The lower hall was rented out for various enterprises and also used for special public occasions. Through the years the building improved with the addition of gas lights, which were later replaced with electricity. Problems arose with regular maintenance, exacerbated with a fire in 1917. Eventually indoor plumbing was installed in 1932. An outside enclosed stairway was added in 1946. In later years utility expenses forced the group to board up the front windows and cover the downstairs wall with carpeting. The prosperity of the members fluctuated with economic conditions, but the Masons continued to attract new members from the outstanding citizens of the town and were able to meet whatever challenges confronted them. During its first 100 years the membership totaled 522.
However, times change and the Lodge, like many other service and social organizations began to deal with declining membership. Together with increasing maintenance expenses of the temple, it was decided to put it up for sale in 1995. The Masons moved their meetings to the nearby Browning Retirement Community and eventually merged with the Rubicon Lodge. Meanwhile, Wakeman Hall remained empty and deteriorating until 1996 when a drug store chain proposed to purchase it and tear it down to make room for a new drug store. This alarmed the local citizenry who valued the historical importance of the building and challenged this proposal at a public meeting.
The Waterville Historical Society was galvanized into action and purchased the building for $80,000 with a loan of $30,000 from the village together with a bequest and many fundraisers. Restoration took two years before the society could begin using the upstairs as an archives and the downstairs as a meeting room for its public programs. The front portion was divided by a wall and made into a replica of an early general store. A picture gallery is below.
After more years of restoration, much of it volunteer labor, the Waterville Historical Society held a re-dedication ceremony in the Ohio Bicentennial year of 2003. The building is included in the historic overlay district. With exterior improvements, signage and landscaping, Wakeman Hall is now an attractive and integral part of Waterville, designated a city in 2012. Waterville promotes itself as a historic destination.
Canal Store Gallery
Click to enlarge