The men who built the Cox Building, William H. and George L. Cox, also underwrote the construction of a string of seven contiguous brick dwellings built simultaneously with the construction of the Cox Building, and extending south along the east side of Market Street from the Cox Building to Fourth Street.
The scale and audacity of this private undertaking must have been breathtaking to the Maysville residence of the 1800s. Located only three city blocks from the Ohio River, the Cox Building commands some of the highest ground in the business district, from which point its tower rises to share the skyline with the spires of various nearby churches and County Courthouse.
Maysville residents had good reason to be relieved when the Cox family built their new development on Lot 104, between Third Street and Fourth Street. Since at least 1815 this lot across the street from, overlooking, upstream from and upwind from the town market had been used as a tanyard.
Based on the wording of property transfers of 1870 and 1879, it appears that the tanyard closed at some time between those two dates. One of the many newspaper accounts of the dedication of the Cox Building noted,
“In gazing at the handsome 4-story structure at the southeast corner of Third and Market, one can hardly realize that only a year or so ago an old dingy-looking, dilapidated two-story brick occupied the ground. And in passing up Market to Fourth, a stranger would hardly imagine that the space now ornamented by the seven fine brick dwellings was a vacant lot twelve months ago, an “eye-sore” to that part of the city” (Daily Evening Bulletin, February 18, 1887).
The Cox Building was designed by W.R. Brown, a partner in the Cincinnati architectural firm of Crapsey & Brown. The firm headed by Charles Crapsey & William R. Brown was prolific in the 1880s and 1890s and executing commissions throughout the Midwest in the Romanesque and Gothic Revival idioms. The firm was experienced in complex large-scale structures such as churches, fraternal halls, college buildings and city halls.
Posterity is fortunate to have a surviving copy of an 1887 newspaper article that lists all of the contractors and suppliers who worked on the Cox Building (Daily Evening Bulletin, February 18, 1887).
The contractors “broke ground” for these buildings March 1, 1886. Amount of rock in foundation 1350 perch; contractors for same, N.B. Smith & Son and Jno. Powers, of this city. Amount of brick used, 1,400,000, furnished and laid by J.M. Blair & sons, of Cincinnati. Amount of plastering, 24,000 yards; contractor, L.B. Hancock, of Cincinnati. There were 50,000 bushels of sand used in laying the foundations, brick and plastering, all of which was furnished by the Gable brothers of this city. The lime used amounted to 1200 barrels. The framing timbers were furnished by W.B. Mathews & Co., and Collins, Rudy & Co., and the inside finishing by the Maysville Manufacturing Company, of this city. The plumbing, gas, and steam fitting was done by T.J. Curley, and the painting and glazing by Frank Hauck and John Carnahan. The slate roofing – about 200 squares – was put on by James Hunter, of Cincinnati. The gas fixtures throughout all the buildings were furnished by T.J. Curley.
The red stone work was done by David Hummel, of Cincinnati, the stone being brought from Mansfield, Ohio. The stone flagging for the pavements was furnished by Reitz & Co., of Portsmouth, Ohio. The tin was done by Allen, Hall & Co., and Bierbower & Co., and the galvanized iron work by McClanahan & Shea, Lane & Worrick, S.B. Chunn and Wormald & Willett did the carpenter work. J.P. Walton, of Cincinnati, did the iron work and furnished the material for same. Electric call-bells were put in by C.E. jones & Co., of Cincinnati (Daily Evening Bulletin, February 18, 1887)
In a second newspaper article appearing eight days later, under a column entitled, “Masonic Notes,” the craftsmen responsible for the stained glass window appearing in the third floor Third Street Façade are mentioned:
“The memorial window, presented by Mrs. Emily Gray, contains about seven hundred pieces of glass of almost every imaginable color and size and design. It was furnished at the cost of seven hundred dollars through Andrews & co., of Chicago” (Daily Evening Bulletin, February 25, 1887).
The construction was completed in a single year. On Wednesday, February 23, 1887 The Daily Evening Bulletin transcribes an account written at the time the Masonic Temple was dedicated:
A representative of the Bulletin was shown through the Temple Last Saturday afternoon by, Colonel Owens and Judge Coons, two of the most prominent and active Sir Knights of Maysville Commandery. On entering the Temple one is ushered into the reception room immediately at the right on reaching the third floor. It faces Market Street, and is 18 by 15 feet in size.
Adjoining this on the north is the Tyler’s Room, 18 by 20 feet in size. Passing through this, one enters the Asylum. This is the largest room in the Temple. It runs the full length of the building on Third street 73 feet and is 40 feet in width. It is the home of the Commandery. Here the secret conclaves of the Sir Knights are held. At the east end of the room is a platform raised a few feet above the floor. From this stage the Eminent Commander presides over the meetings. On either side are two seats for the Senior and Junior Warden and for distinguished guests. Over the E.C. chair is the inscription, “INRI,” in large jeweled letters. In the center of the Asylum is what is known as the Delta, a table patterned after the Greek letter of that name. It is covered with heavy white fringed black velvet and on it are arranged twelve golden candlesticks. The Delta is used in the secret work of the Order. In the north-east and south-east corners of the Asylum are desks, one for the Recorder and the other for the Treasurer.
The Reception Room, Tyler’s Room, and Asylum are all finely furnished in cherry, with rich velvet-cushioned furniture to correspond, and the floors are all covered with handsome Brussels carpet. The Asylum is lighted by eighty-three gas jets, most of them from a large chandelier suspended from the center of the ceiling. The Scene Room is south of the Asylum and occupies a somewhat central part of the floor. It is surrounded by a seven- foot hallway. Its dimensions are 21×13 feet. In it are kept the paraphernalia used in the secret work of the order. The Blue Lodge Room is found in the south-east corner of the third floor, and is 48×30 feet in size. The Worshipful Master’s chair is on an elevation at the east end, the senior Warden’s at the west end and the Junior Warden’s at the south side, midway. An alter occupies the middle of the room. It is heavily cushioned with deep blue velvet and is surrounded by a rest, likewise cushioned, for persons in kneeling posture. This room is finished in ancient oak. The furniture corresponds and is cushioned in deep blue velvet. The Asylum and Blue Lodge Room are connected by folding doors with the hallway that surrounds the Scene Room, and also with the main hallway.”
On the fourth floor is the banquet room, dimensions 100×23 feet, arranged to accommodate about 300 people at one time, the kitchen, pantry and china closet. In the foregoing an accurate description has not been attempted. It is merely an outline. There are a number of hallways, anti-rooms, vaults etc, that have not been mentioned, and which are difficult to describe. No expense was spared in making the Temple one of the handsomest in its finish and the most complete in its every arrangement in the state.
The city of Maysville purchased the building in 2006 for $200,000 and has since been working diligently in bringing the building back to its original grandeur. All in which came to a crashing halt on November 9th 2010 when a fire almost destroyed the building.
The roof, 4th and 5th floors were totally destroyed by fire. Since that time, the city has worked diligently in bringing this building back to life.
Today the Cox building is home to:
- First Floor: Maysville Community & Technical College Culinary Art Institute
- First Floor: Maysville Community & Technical College Culinary Art Institute Bakery
- First Floor: Maysville Community & Technical College Culinary Art Institute Cafe
- Second Floor: Maysville-Mason County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (2nd location)
- Second Floor: Downing Academe
- Second Floor: Maysville Masonic Lodge Office
- Second Floor: Ohio River Valley Artist Guild Studio, Gallery & Shop
- Third Floor: Banquet & Business Rental Spaces
- Third Floor: Maysville Masonic Lodge