Offer pending but no sale yet for Des Moines’ landmark Old Masonic Home

by Jack Mayne

Despite constant and varied rumors about the sale and potential uses of the Landmark Event Center, also known as the Old Masonic Home, the 88-year-old, 130,000 square foot facility and 27-acre campus on Marine View Drive is still owned by the Masonic Lodge, property manager David P. Owen said Monday.

“I can’t guarantee anything,” said Owen, the lodge’s grand secretary. “All I can say is there is a signed purchase and sales agreement in place for someone who is interested in buying the property. I have not received any earnest money. We gave a back-up offer waiting.”

About the rumors of the possible uses of the land and building, he said, “Once you sell the facility, whatever they do with it, that is their decision.”

The building at 23660 Marine View Drive in Des Moines is described on the Mason’s website:

“The Freemasons of Washington State built Landmark in 1926 as a retirement community and have maintained ownership for the last 88 years. The Event Center was developed temporarily five years ago until a decision for the future of the building was made. Landmark has been empty for 10 years, is un-occupiable and is in need of renovation; we currently only utilize 25 percent of the building.”

Its sale was decided upon because the lodge simply could not afford to keep it nor the cost of rehabilitating it as a residential facility or for possible other uses.

It has been on the market since January 2013.

Owen said the offer is from Chinese developers but he does not know what the group has in mind.

The potential buyers are trying to “go through a rezone with the City of Des Moines,” but that is all he knows.

Marion Yoshino, economic development manager for Des Moines, said the group has made no zoning change requests as yet so there is nothing before city planners for them to decide.

The current zoning is high density residential.

Owen said the “liability” of the property is $20 million to $22 million cost to get the huge building up to codes to be operated as a residential facility.

Here are some photos and videos that highlight this historic building’s beauty (click images to see larger versions/slideshow):


Matt Shumate Photography


Photo by Michael Brunk /

A scene set in J. Edgar Hoover’s office was shot in the building’s Library for “The Maury Island Incident” film on July 1, 2013. Photo by Michael Brunk.


A Masonic time capsule buried in front of the building is scheduled to be opened on Aug. 25, 2030.


Historic Masonic symbols decorate the interior.

Have any memories of this historic building? Please share them in Comments below…


14 Responses to “Offer pending but no sale yet for Des Moines’ landmark Old Masonic Home”
  1. Wanker says:

    More Chinese investors….that’s um… fantastic?

    Anyone seen the air quality, or the way they treat their working class? Are those values we want in our community? Or are the city leaders blinded by dollar signs?

    I am all.for development, but some things are more important than money.

  2. Kristy says:

    My husband and I said “I do” in the rose garden in 1997. Hopefully whoever buys it, preserves it’s beauty and intended use.

  3. Jack Mayne says:

    I forgot to add to my story a question many have asked – whether the Landmark Event Center is a designated historical structure. It is not.

    In Des Moines, unlike Seattle, a building owner must approve that designation. In Seattle the owner may or may not be able to block historical designation. In Des Moines, this paragraph from the city’s Municipal Code shows the control the property owner has:

    “Property owners who wish to remove their property from the historic properties survey, or from consideration for designation, may do so by submitting a written request to the community development director who shall remove the property from consideration, or the survey. [Ord. 1124 § 3, 1995.]”

    The Masons chose NOT to designate the Landmark Event Center/Old Masonic Home as a landmark.

    Sorry for forgetting to put it in the story.

    Jack Mayne

    • Candace Urquhart says:

      Has the historic landmark status changed since this was published?

      • Dave Kaplan says:

        Those who are purchasing the property are working on a plan to bring to the City. Their purchase is conditioned on approval of what they would need to build what they intend. The purchasers have indicated that they want to keep the main building. The purchasers are not a Chinese group. The purchasers have talked about a destination hotel, some retail, and restaurants in the main building, with other services being built on grounds behind the main building, and on the wooded 10 acres to the east.

        • Dave Kaplan says:

          Regarding historic designation, that is entirely up to the property owners and neither the Masons nor the purchasers have asked to have the property designated that way.

  4. dennis maloy says:

    I hate to see this estatego”out of hands” of masons. Yes it’s historic story would become lost in my opinion. Something ( i cannot explain it ) tells me that this monument should be restored.. If I had the money, I would devote the rest of my days in the maintaining of it.
    Such a shame on city and industry to give up on such a structure.

  5. Victoria Garner says:

    I used to work in this beautiful building when it was still the Masonic Retirement Center. I worked there from 1995 until 1997. The building is stunning, but I can see why it would cost so much to renovate. No apartment in the building has it’s own bathroom, there is a shared bathroom on each floor, I believe there is one on each wing. There is a Masonic Lodge in Forest Grove Oregon, just not as many floors. It has been turned into a beautiful hotel, and is extremely popular. The Masons should consider doing something like that. In the Lodge in Forest Grove, there are also no bathrooms in the rooms, but it does not seem to effect the popularity of the hotel.

  6. Debrah says:

    This would be a grea place for another McMenamins!

    • Martin Metz says:

      My wife contacted McMenamins last year about the Landmark on the Sound and was told that they were not interested in expanding at that time. This outfit has experience in bringing the best out of old historical structures and still making a profit. The Landmark on the Sound would be an excellent destination / event location. Things could always change as improvements in the economy are experienced.

  7. Leslee Jo Peyerson says:

    Please restore. A beautiful venure. Don’t lose it.

  8. Dennis Maloy says:

    I am surprised nothing has happened. Is it possible for another to place a bid?

Share Your Opinion

By participating in our online comment system, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of our comment policy.

...and oh, if you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!