Goodbye to the Masonic House OdessaNovember 10, 2016
On Prince Street in Odessa sits the ruins of the building that was once the Russian Technical Society – known locally as the Masonic House – whether or not freemasonry actually occurred on the premises or not.
It was once a very imposing and architecturally significant building in Odessa – but like so many old and historic buildings in Odessa is has been allowed to decay.
Nevertheless, the building was put up for auction and a company called Art Building Group, part of Incor Group bought the land and building for $1.6 million with the intention of replicating the building exactly both internally and externally – as restoration was deemed impossible following full inspection.
Inkor Group is owned by Ruslan Tarpan, a man that was responsible for the refurbishment of Ekaterinaskaya Ploshad in its entirety a number of years ago returning it to being of the most photogenic spots in the very centre of Odessa, and the location in which the head office of Incor Group is located.
(To be precise Incor Group is to be found within the old 19th century mayoral offices of Georgi Mazari – a man of arguably equal historical standing to the Duke of Richelieu with regard to the development of the city .)
Incor Group has a reputation for two distinct types of work. Quality engineering projects and architectural reconstruction of historic buildings – both of which it does very well, and the latter with no historic detail overlooked.
It has to be said that Ruslan Tarpan does not have the best reputation which can be partly attributed/expected following a 6 year tenure in City Hall on the finance committee during Ukraine’s “Orange” period.
How much of that reputation is deserved and how much is simply attributed is rather subjective in the absence of sufficient hard evidence in the public realm. Regardless he is also most certainly a “no nonsense” individual too. Without doubt he has the ability to upset some of a more meek disposition or who display an inability to make timely decisions. Fools are simply not suffered.
Full disclosure – Ruslan Tarpan is known to this blog.
Having made that disclosure it is a fact to which this blog bears witness that when Incor Group takes on a project of historical importance there is an incredible amount of investigative work, rummaging through the old achieves (that survived the centuries through a turn of fate when they were evacuated during WWII, whilst the Soviet documents were destroyed) the collection and collation of photographic and cinematographic evidence wherever it can be found.
Hundreds of hours are spent investigating any building that Mr Tarpan decides to refurbish or replicate before a decision to do the work is even entertained – and with so many old building in Odessa crumbling due to continued neglect. There is also the matter of purchasing what can be saved and prioritising those purchases.
For those that get to meet him, his is capable of reciting the entire history of every historic building his company has refurbished or painstakingly replicated – and of those buildings he would like to.
Along with the House Russov in the city centre, the Masonic House was also identified as for sale, and of sufficient historic importance to interest Mr Tarpan. (To be blunt both require replication and are beyond restoration. Nevertheless all the research for diligent replication for both has been done.)
However, despite winning the auction for Masonic House in 2015, it will not be painstakingly replicated. Former Governor Saakashvili refused to complete the necessary bureaucracy to transfer ownership of the property, making various statements regarding the auction price being too long and claims that a high rise would be built instead.
Incor doesn’t build high rise and it was the third attempt to auction the building, the previous two auction attempts getting no interest whatsoever.
Whatever the reason for the former-Governor’s objections and obstructionism, there was no way a high rise would be built in place of the Masonic House by Mr Tarpan. Whatever his faults, he cares passionately about history and the architectural preservation of the city centre – as his historical work evidences.
Whilst the former Governor was delaying the finalising of the purchase – lightening struck.
– collapsing what was left of the roof and turning large parts of the building to rubble.
Nevertheless there was no change in the position of Art Building Group/Incor/Mr Tarpan. Indeed attempts were made through the courts to enforce the honouring of the auction outcome. All such efforts have failed.
As the former Governor leaves Odessa, Art Building Group, Incor and Ruslan Tarpan now walk away from the rubble of the Masonic House.
The city still owns the rubble.
Perhaps another auction at some point will be held, perhaps not. What seems fairly evident however, is that a building of historical interest in Odessa will not longer be replicated in excruciating detail as it otherwise would have been.
So Russov House will be the city centre gain at the loss of the Masonic House?
Well it could be if only the documentation and surrounding bureaucracy relating to that purchase was also not being repeatedly delayed and effectively blocked – while in the meantime that building also moves beyond simple ruin and heads progressively toward a major public safety hazard.
One of the most striking things that Ruslan Tarpan has said in the presence of this blog, and which has remained flagged within the tired and muddled brain, is that the 10 big property families of Odessa, and businessmen like himself, all love their city and are all very well aware of their limitations before the public, as ultimately all want to live and eventually die in Odessa – and not be run out by a baying mob.
Seemingly even the self-appointed aristocracy of Odessa differs little from that of the old bloodlines when it comes to leaving a legacy for their future generations that does not involve exile.
Whatever the case, if and when the blog meets with Mr Tarpan again, perhaps there will be some progress toward his saving Russov House from a Masonic fate. If so, an update regarding the saving of Russov House will appear.