INDIANAPOLIS — On the northeast corner of 22nd Street and Central Avenue, sits The Prince Hall Masonic Temple, an official landmark of Indiana and Hoosier Black History.
"As far as the history in this room. Oh my god, does it go back, all the way to 1915," said Ronnell Griffie.
The century-old Prince Hall is home to a number lodges and chapters of Freemasonry, the oldest fraternity organization in the world. "Our mission is to make good men better," member Phil Burton explained.
The Indianapolis lodge and building gets its name from Prince Hall himself, the first Black man to become a Freemason in 1775. Hall established the first black Freemason lodge, after being denied entry to the mainstream organization of all white men. 246 years later the building that houses the local members of the group Hall founded are caring for their Indianapolis location, which after 100 years needs some work.
"See these dent spots in the ceiling here? You can tell just about where your problems are," said Board President Ronnell Griffie. You can look up at the ceiling and go oh!, we got a problem there guys," Griffie said while pointing to damage on the ceiling.
Over the years, the roof has become a source of leaks during heavy rains and a full replacement could cost up to $40,000. But that's not all. After centuries of service the boiler eventually went out and has since been replaced by a furnace. "Oh my god does it ever need love and an update!" Griffie said.
Despite hosting hundreds of community members over the years, the last true facelift of the building was more than 30-years ago. That's why Indiana Landmarks is stepping in with a $9,000 grant to provide this piece of Indiana history the care it needs. That's exciting news for a Griffie and members who love this building and are working to keep it open and standing strong.
"We do the best we can here. We have survived a long time in this building," Griffie said.
More than a dozen organizations are getting thousands of dollars to repair and preserve African-American landmarks across Indiana. The grants come from funds honoring Eli Lilly's first Black chemist, Standiford Cox, who advocated for the preservation of these important locations before his death two years ago.