Inside An Abandoned Masonic Hall In Tappan, NY

Last week, I was sent up to scout around Tappan, NY, a beautiful hamlet just over the New Jersey border. Each day, I found myself driving back and forth along a road called Western Highway…


…and in the process, passing a gorgeous brick building that appeared to be abandoned.


Was it a school, or former college? Perhaps the old town hall? On the seventh or eighth drive by, I finally pulled over to find out.


Though the building was still in excellent condition, walking the deserted grounds almost felt like something out of Lovecraft.


In search of clues, I came around the side of the building…


…where ivy was slowly increasing its stranglehold on the facade:


A rusted old fence at the top of a crumbling staircase:


The rear of the building revealed a number of additions…


…and a great view of the building’s impressive cupola…


But what was it??

As it turns out, a pretty big clue was staring down at me:


After making some phone calls, I learned that this was once the German Masonic Home of Tappan, a place for “worthy decayed Masons, their widows, and orphans” – in other words, a home for members who could no longer care for themselves. Below, a photograph taken February 8, 1920:


Incredibly, the building has barely changed over the years. The German Masonic group continues to this day in Tappan, and a member graciously arranged for me to take a tour.


The land for the site, 20 acres in all, was purchased by the German Masons in 1872 for $14,500; construction on the Hall began in 1906 and finished in 1909. From then until 1983, the building was a residence hall for Masons and their kin in an attempt to “shield the individual against the blasts of an adverse fate,” according to a Masonic historian.


Though I was expecting some level of dilapidation, I had no idea how bad the decay would be.


Abandoned since 1996, water damage had taken its toll, and I began to wonder if anything of note had managed to survive.


Then we took a turn through a glass-paned door…


…and found this on the other side:


This is the Home’s former chapel, and I found the mix of elegant design with decay to create an almost haunting beauty.


The chapel actually has an interesting connection to film history. A later addition to the building, the chapel was donated by member Anton T. Kliegl, inventor of the Klieg light, which quickly became the standard of screen and stage.


The real treasure here are the stained glass windows, which are miraculously in perfect condition:


They’ve since been boarded up for safety, and will hopefully be removed soon for preservation…


…but seriously: wow.


I don’t know my Masonic history, but I imagine these scenes were chosen for a reason – perhaps someone out there could illuminate?


At the front wall, two pictures are embedded in the stained glass.


The man is identified as Brother A. T. Kliegl…


The woman is his wife, Schw. L. Kliegl (thanks to readers for clarifying!). Both share the date of April 8, 1928 – anyone have any idea why?


Two windows in the chapel’s corner:


A stained glass skylight used to adorn the chapel’s dome but has since been removed for safe keeping:


Three chairs on the altar:


I noticed the pinnacle of each chair is different. According to reader Mark, “The chairs are for the 3 main positions in the lodge. The center chair is for the Worshipful Master, to the right is the Chaplin, and to the left is the education officer.”


From the debris covered pews…


…to the moss-strewn floors, I have to admit, that Lovecraftian feeling was only increasing.


As we left the chapel, I noticed another window…


…which looked especially impressive in the dark.


From there, we made our way to the main staircase…


…adorned with a Masonic mosaic set into the wall:


Just around the corner were the remnants of a formal room…


…the Masonic symbol still above the fireplace:


In 1983, the Home closed and residents were moved to another facility provided by the German Masons in New Rochelle. The building was leased as a dorm to Dominican College, a local liberal arts college. Below, the former dining hall/ballroom. Note the arched doors on the right:


Just off the dining hall is the old cafeteria/kitchen, in a terrible state of disrepair:


At some point, a medical wing was added to the rear of the first floor.


This was probably an examination room:


The original sink:


Next door, the old nurse’s station…


Long since faded, the slight pink color makes me think this was once a vibrant pastel hue:


A photograph above the sink – quick, who can identify the location?


A private sick room, complete with bed:


An old General Electric water fountain:


From there, we headed upstairs to the second floor…


…er, probably wisely deciding to forego the elevator:


This was the first of three residential floors for the Masonic Home, where members were able to live free of charge.


Here, the decay was at its worst…


…and, coupled with the utter silence of the building, that horror movie feel was reaching a peak.


In fact…OK, I’ll come clean – I had one really embarrassing scare during the tour. As we were looking in this bedroom, SOMETHING SUDDENLY JUMPED OUT AT US…


Pigeons. Dammit, I nearly had a heart attack!


Interestingly enough, there is a tragic story from the building’s past that could easily fuel a ghost legend or two. As I was doing research, I came across this article from from the September 5, 1933, edition of the NY Times:


According to the article, John Ellich, 74, and Marie Kiefer, 64, both residents of the Masonic Home, had secretly fallen in love despite strict rules against such intimacy. A year later, they snuck off to New York City to elope.


Unfortunately, their secret was discovered, and they were informed by the board of directors that they were to be separated, with one of them being moved to the Masonic Home of Utica.


On September 3rd, 1933, at 8 AM, the superintendent found Ellich’s room locked and, upon opening it with a passkey, empty. Kiefer’s door was also found to be locked, with paper stuffed in the keyhole.


Inside, Ellich and Kiefer were found dead, lying side by side. Ellich still held an automatic pistol, and suicide notes were found on the dresser. According to the Times, “It is believed they took advantage of the noise of last night’s electrical storm when the pistol was fired, because none of the other guests heard the shots.”


I’d love to know if the story was known to the Dominican College students who dormed here…


…though I’m sure their super cool spaceship mattresses made them feel safe as they slept at night:


In retrospect, the service provided by the German Masonic Hall seems almost unbelievable in today’s age – a full care retirement residence for those simply in need. In fact, a final resting place was also provided for members at the local cemetery…


…where a group plot was instituted:


Burials span over 50 years, the most recent in 1987:


Sadly, it doesn’t look like much can be done to save the German Masonic Home. While the exterior masonry is in great shape, the roof is falling in, and the interior would need to be completely gutted.


For a time, the Masons had hoped to tear the building down and build smaller homes on the land for seniors in an attempt to fulfill their original mission, but were prohibited by zoning laws.


And so it sits on its hill, decaying a little further each day.


When you literally can’t build ’em like this anymore, it’s sad when you can’t find a purpose for the ones that remain.

On a positive note, much of the Home’s land has become the German Masonic Park, and is used frequently by the town for events and sports.


PS – If it’s not clear from my pictures, the building is INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS and boarded up for a reason!! There is also no trespassing on the grounds. Tappan is very small, and the police take notice.

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  1. I would like to join with others, restore it and turn it into a private school.

  2. This was so heartbreaking to see as this nursing home is very dear to my heart. My parents were the nursing home administrators from 1972 to 1976 and we lived in, what was then, a beautifully maintained building. I’ve been reading all of the posts and can vividly remember helping at the Traubenfest and the Christmas parties. We never experienced any of the hauntings that have been mentioned but do recall creaks and groans of the old building. The stained glass in the chapel and other locations in the home were gorgeous and I’m so glad they were able to be salvaged. The sheep were an added plus and every year the schools would bring classes to watch the shearing process. They finally had to get rid of them when some neighbors or visitors started torturing them by putting clothespins on their noses. The residents were very upset but it was best for the sheep. The masons of the 9th Manhattan district did a great job of caring for the residents and provided a comfortable, safe and healthy environment for everyone in their care. I can remember seeing the housekeeping staff polishing all of the beautiful woodwork and now, to see it all in such poor condition is so sad as so many lives were touched by this beautiful old home. I do so hope that something can be done to salvage what can be saved and agree with the one post that this building would make a wonderful bed and breakfast. As heartbreaking as it was to see these pictures, I’m glad for the opportunity as they brought back wonderful memories of a very happy time in my life.

  3. This is a part of Masonic tradition that should not let this building decay away. I am greatful that you shared this story.

    I am a Freemason and this building was built on a belief and a time honored tradition. To sad to see such a great structure waste away.

  4. Great article and beautiful old hall. You got some bad information about who sat in those chairs, however.

  5. I doubt the three chairs are “on the Altar”, but rather on a dais, probably consisting of three steps. Normally they would be separated to designated places about the “hall” each on its own respective dais of either one or two steps. I’d say they are for the three principal officers, but the two juniors are not the Chaplain and Education officers. The tops of the outside two chairs are representative of the early level and plumb. I can’t get my head around the sleeping traveler, but the Good Shepard is appropriate. The authors comments leads me to believe this “lost lamb” is in need of a “Good Shepard” to save it from the chasm of Zoning Laws and the “it’s archaic” and “up to code” rhetoric.

  6. It is hard to believe that in the Masonically active State of New York, no Masonic group has seen fit to purchase the building and restore it to its original function. Last year I attended a Masonic function in Medina OH where there is a “Masonic Village”, fulfilling the same functions as the one described above but, contrary to Tappan, NY, the one in Medina is beautiful, with superb facilities, well maintained buildings and offers all kinds of amenities. It is worth taking a look at their Chapel too. There are three such homes in OH alone.

    MS – Grand Historian, Sovereign Great Priory of Canada, Knights Templar

    • Richard Krauland

      We are currently in the process of restoring this building. We are almost finished with putting on a new roof. We should have the insides redone by the end of the summer.

  7. I would like to say that I am a Mason in the 9th Manhattan district. The stained glass has been preserved and it currently illuminates our beautiful lodge room.

    The 9th Manhattan still owns the building, but it would cost way to much to restore the building to a functioning state. It was estimated at 10 million plus. (any donation offers? lol) There are currently no plans on the building. As far as state and federal funding go, they government has cut off more than 90% of its funding for historical buildings. I am on the board of a historical building also, and they used to be federally funded, but not anymore.

    • I saw the building on a recent visit to Tappan. We laid my uncle, a proud Mason, to rest in a nearby cemetery. I was taken by the architecture and proud when I saw the cornerstone. If I had the time I certainly would have sought out a tour from a local Brother.

      • Richard Krauland

        Please get in touch with me if you are interested in a tour. I will be going on a tour sometime in June.

    • There is what appears to possibly be a pipe organ in the balcony level of the chapel. Still there or has it, hopefully, been rescued? Check out (A potential source for rescue.) Can you supply any sort of description/nameplate?

    • Richard,
      If 9th Manhattan is interested I would like to open a conversation to form a committee to round up some volunteers that could secure the roof decay to keep the weather out, and to do some general clean up that will prevent further decay. I am certain this could be accomplished at a very reasonable cost. In due time.
      W. Dave D.

      • Richard Krauland

        Br. Dave,
        We are in the process of fixing the roof and it should be completed shortly. If you are still intested in assisting more, please get in touch with me.

  8. My mother was the nurse at the German Masonic Home for many years. She loved that job, and she loved the residents. She was quite sad when they moved to New Rochelle. I was a volunteer there when I was a teenager. There was an infirmary, but most residents were not ill, just old. I had not heard the story about the couple who committed suicide (terribly sad) but I do know that there were couples who were married and lived together there, so perhaps that policy change occurred because of the suicide? Don’t know. The “private sick room” was a single room occupied by my friend, Mathilda Meyer, who, though she had much reason to be sad in this life, never was. She always encouraged me to follow my dreams: “Others do it, why not you?” She was such a lovely woman.

  9. I have wondered about this building for years. I just pulled my car over the other day and took a couple of pictures….there were huge icicles hanging that looked so cool. I am so glad that I found this article to answer my questions. Such a shame that this beautiful building is just rotting away.

  10. Hello , was just wondering. . WILL THERE BE the yearly TRAUBENFEST in Tappan in October? Does anyone know? I’m on the West coast and wanted to visit it ONCE MORE . . after 50 years . . so who can tell me this?HP

  11. As a Mason, I do not recognize the stained glass to be Masonic. However, being in New York State may reveal one of them. The man with the dagger on his hip sleeping on a mountainside may allude to the story of Rip Van Winkle. It is a Germanic tale that originated in the hills of New York.

  12. Reader Mark was partly correct, the chairs are for the 3 ‘principle officers’ of the lodge. Mark is correct that the center chair is for the Worshipful Master, but the other chairs are for the Senior Warden (L) and the Junior Warden (R).

  13. When I was a kid (lived in New Hyde Park, NY), my Dad who was born in Germany and came to the US in 1935, became a member of a German masonic lodge. Across the road from this once beautiful and mysterious mansion was a masonic fair grounds (for lack of another name). The individual masonic lodges each had a small cement-block building, built in a circle. Each one offered different ‘stuff’…some had games, others had food. My Dad’s lodge (the Von Mensch Lodge) sold burgers, hot dogs, wurst, beer and soda, etc. Some lodges provided games. In he middle of circle of lodges was a large building that served a traditional German hot meal. There was German music and dancing, German food and German libations! We kids would walk across the street to this big home and talk to the residence and chase the sheep that grazed on the property around the house. One time my brother and I found a way into the basement….oooohhh it was so scarey! I also remember that there were sheep on the grounds that we would chase after until we could run no more. One year I drank just a little too much beer and I was panicked because I found myself up by this big house and was confused as to how to get back to the fair grounds (I think my older brother had something to do with this incident…ya think?) I am sad to see it not in use anymore….it really was a beautiful and peaceful place to live.

  14. Christopher Howard

    Just took a trip there today and also had access inside. Took hundreds of pics as well as imagined what this place had been like in its hay day. The pictures in this article are much different than those of today’s pics and maybe one day we could see some side by side. Only 2 rooms with graffiti but overall left to decay at its own leisure. Photographing pics of abandoned structures is my hobby. I’ve been all over and can say that this location is by far one of my favorites! I’d do anything to assist with saving this special piece of history!

  15. I went to college at Dominican and lived in this dorm for 3 years. I have many stories. It was definitely filled with good and bad spirits. There was also a Norge in the basement. The basement was the most haunted part of the building. And yes. The couple who committed suicide spirit was alive in that mansion. Call me if you want to know more.

  16. the roof on the old building has been completely rebuilt and re roofed finished fall of 2016 .time heals all it will function as a viable asset once again , money is our largest problem but it will come to frutation the great architect of the universe is shining his great light upon us, as we say let there be light