Masons perform cornerstone ceremony during courthouse dedication
Local residents and public officials gathered Saturday to dedicate the new Moffat County Courthouse.
The ceremony opened with the presentation of the American flag, which was performed by members of the American Legion Post #62 and VFW Post #4265. After the flag was raised, Ed Wilkinson, Commander of American Legion Post #62, led the assembly in the pledge of allegiance and the MCHS marching band performed the national anthem. Wilkinson also re-dedicated the veteran’s memorial that was previously on display at the former courthouse.
County Commissioner Melody Villard then welcomed attendees and lauded the courthouse as “an example of the smart growth forward in our county.” She introduced the Grand Masons of Colorado, including members of the sponsoring Elk Mountain #118 Lodge, to perform the symbolic cornerstone ceremony.
Grand Orator Brian Boe Hawkins began the ceremony with a brief history and explanation for the event, noting that “the laying of a cornerstone with ritualistic ceremonies is as old as the art of building.” Stretching back to the days of Babylon, the laying of cornerstones has played an important role in the construction of many notable edifices.
Hawkins noted that George Washington took part in a cornerstone ceremony at the nation’s capitol in 1793. More recently, cornerstone ceremonies have been part of construction for Colorado’s State Capitol building (1890) and many other state and federal buildings since. The ceremony itself “implores the divine blessing of God to protect the workmen from injury, to bless those who conceived the building of this edifice and to bless all who shall enter through these doors” with Hawkins extending the courthouse’s blessing to include “even those who shall enter in handcuffs.”
With the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Colorado, Ross Allen, presiding over the ceremony, the masons encouraged all those in attendance to “join in the spirit of this occasion” as the cornerstone was “tested and tried and laid in due and ancient masonic form.” At one point, members of the public were invited to spread mortar on the cornerstone and a line formed that included everyone from county commissioners to MCSD students.
After the cornerstone had been successfully prepared, proclamations were made by Grand Marshall Lawrence Ott. Breaking momentarily from the solemnity of the occasion, Ott led the crowd in a round of synchronized clapping, explaining that the ritual is “a masonic secret for how you put some really good ju-ju in the building.”
Following the masonic ceremony, an honorary trowel was presented by the Grand Master of Masons to the Elk Mountain Lodge, who in turn presented it for safe-keeping to Moffat County Development Services Director Roy Tipton.
Tipton spoke in some depth about the history of the courthouse project. It was a complex process over five years in the making, but which ultimately allowed for the bringing together of six properties that were previously scattered throughout the city.
Tipton described the project as one where “all along the way once the decision was made, everything fell into place.” He noted that the project was able to be completed without raising taxes, which he attributed, along with the overall success of the project, to the dedication and hard work of many hands.
He offered thanks to Sen. Bennet and his office, the Department of Local Affairs, the Underfunded Courthouse Facilities Commission, the 14th Judicial District, the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, John Gossett with the State Administrator’s Office, the IT Department, previous Moffat County Director of Finance Mindy Curtis, former facilities director Lennie Gillam and his staff, and past and present county commissioners among others.
Tipton called his work on the courthouse and for the county in general “one of the most rewarding experiences” and shared his gratitude for the opportunity.
Speaking on behalf of the project’s general contractor, BHI, Brandon Roper also noted a community connection. He shared that his company “loves” being part of the Moffat County community and was intent on bringing as many local contractors as possible on board as part of construction.
Chief architect Andrew Pitts joked that he’d heard some people refer to the new courthouse as “Court-Mart” in reference to the building’s former occupant, K-Mart. But he brought credit for the impressive transformation and resulting structure back to Tipton, remarking that “Roy’s dedication to this building is really what you see behind us.” Pitts concluded with the hope that the efforts of Tipton and others had created “an opportunity for this community for many many generations to come to celebrate the work that happens inside and really celebrate the people of Moffat County.”
Following the presentation, the building was open for tours of the public areas.
The Grand Opening for the Moffat County Courthouse 14th Judicial District will take place on at 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 29.
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