Masonic Temple in Fairbanks destroyed by roof collapse
A century-old Fairbanks building was demolished after a roof collapse Saturday due to snow load, city officials said.
Teal Soden, a spokeswoman for Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly, said crews responded at about 2 p.m. to the Masonic Temple at 809 1st Ave. along the Chena River, after a call that “someone had witnessed a roof collapse” at the structure originally built in 1906.
Although squatters have occasionally broken into the building, Soden said, nobody was inside during Saturday’s collapse and there were no reports of injuries.
Fire crews blocked off part of 1st Avenue to prevent people from approaching the unsafe structure as demolition crews prepared to remove it, despite interest from the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Historic Preservation Commission in saving its facade.
“They will begin taking down the building,” Soden said. “We’re not sure that any portion of the building will be able to be saved.”
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported in 2014 that the structure, which hosted a speech by President Warren G. Harding during an Alaska visit in 1923, was in need of a new roof with the current one built on two-by-fours.
Fairbanks city code requires most modern construction to withstand roof snow loads of 50 pounds per square foot, Soden said, but older structures grandfathered under the revised code may not be able to bear that much.
The National Weather Service told Soden that snow loads in the city stood at 29 pounds per square foot on Thursday, when the News-Miner reported that the flat-roofed F & H Fitness Studio on Picket Place off Peger Road also suffered a non-injury roof collapse. University Fire Department crews told the newspaper snow load “likely had some role to play.”
On Saturday, Soden said owners of Fairbanks buildings constructed before the 1970s might want to look into removing snow from their roofs, because heavy snow load may pose a danger in the wake of Saturday’s collapse.
“It’s unfortunate,” Soden said. “It’s kind of a Fairbanks landmark.”
Steve Quinn contributed information to this story.
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