Historic Cotton Exchange building, group works to ensure its future

It opened in 1877, a sign of Savannah’s thriving economy.  “The Cotton Exchange set the price of cotton pretty much worldwide for the Colonies and Europe,” says Scott Eisenhart from Solomon Lodge #1 Free & Accepted Masons, which now owns the building.

Pictures show the price of cotton being set daily at a time when Savannah ranked first as a cotton seaport on the Atlantic and second in the world. The historic building also boasts the largest stain glass window ever made for a commercial building. And a visitor can even sit in a chair once used by American’s first president George Washington, who was a Mason. We’re told Washington visited Savannah in 1791 and the chair was made for a ball he attended.

The Exchange operated until 1951. By 1976, the Masons had purchased the building and are now safeguarding local history while also trying to ensure the building’s place into the future. “You know the building itself was built over a street and the only thing supporting it are the columns underneath and so the building is sagging,” says Eisenhart.

A look outside proves what time and gravity are doing to the old structure. Eisenhart says “We need to see what we can do to save Her, keep her around for a couple hundred more years to be a part of this town.”

He says the Masons have been raising some money through donations but those are only taken on Saturdays when members can be on hand to open the building and provide a tourist or even a local with a little historic tour. “But to open the building for donations, we’ll pull anywhere from $200 to $300 a weekend. Well, if you do the math that’s 30 years of opening the lodge and the building won’t survive that long. So we have to take other steps,”says Eisenhart.

He says they’re trying to work on a long range plan now and Eisenhart says the idea would be for a local engineering or construction firm to offer them some help free of charge.

Eisenhart says the historical building is open every first Saturday. You can also call 912-238-4570 to make arrangements to see the building. And if you are interested in more information or to help the group in its quest to repair the building, you can also write to the Solomon Lodge #1 Free & Accepted Masons, P.O. Box 1734, Savannah, Georgia 31402

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