The building at 211 Willey Street, now christened the Wubbie Building, is a Romanesque Revival/Industrial style building built of red brick and terracotta veneer. It was built in 1916 to much fanfare. Historically, the building was known for being the lodge building for Morgantown’s Masonic Order.
211 Willey Street, sometimes
known as 211 High, and now redeveloped under the name the Wubbie Building, is a
four-story brick building designed in the architectural styles of industrial
and some neoclassical influence (the marble-style terracotta). This building was the Masonic Lodge for Morgantown Union no. 4 for 85 years, being replaced by a new lodge in 2001.
began on the 22nd of July 1915 when the cornerstone was laid. Cornerstone
laying is an important Freemason ritual, and is only performed on buildings of
particular note. Construction was finished in less than 7 months. A formal
opening ceremony was held in March 1916 where a parade of over 600 Masonic
Order members and band celebrated the opening of their new lodge.
The white “marble” veneer
is actually glazed terracotta, giving the appearance of white marble without
the cost ($3.20 in 1915, $78.80 today). Replacing marble with terracotta was a
popular decision in 1915. A steady decrease in quality beginning in 1913 and
continuing through 1924 saw marble price plummet. Terracotta was still cheaper, but
sacrificed long-term sustainability. It is important to note that
the terracotta on 211 Willey has aged remarkably well. It has only
greyed/yellowed slightly and is almost totally complete.
The architect is a
subject of debate. Many believe the building was designed and built by Elmer F.
Jacobs. Jacobs was a famous Morgantown architect known for fireproof factory
buildings in Pittsburgh and the “modern” High Street renovations into its
well-known industrial style. It is also likely The Masonic Order commissioned a
lesser known architect to parrot existing style on High Street with masonic
flair, and the myth has persisted that Jacobs drew the blueprints.
The Masonic Order’s
charters in West Virginia are often older than the state itself, as they are
usually holdovers from before the Civil War and the creation of the state. The
Morgantown Order; Union Lodge No. 4 is one such, as their charter began in
1812. The Morgantown Order relocated to the corner of Burroughs Street and
Windsor Street in 2001. Between 2001 and 2008, the building was left in decay
following a brief occupation by Chestnut Ridge Church. It has recently been
developed into residential apartments. The developer, Wubbie Development Group
leasing the building through DC LLC Management has modified the interior layout
to follow property requirements. Exterior modifications have been kept to a