ELKINS - More than 50 members of the Grand Lodge AF&AM Masons of West Virginia gathered with Elkins Rehabilitation & Care Center board members, staff and local residents Friday for a unique ceremony - the laying of the cornerstone for the expansion of ERCC. Owen G. Gragg, grand master of the Masons of West Virginia, officiated the ceremony.
The cornerstone laying is tradition in Masonic history. Until the development of steel-framed construction in the past century, most buildings were erected by stacking stones. Each part of the building was marked by ceremony. The foundation stone was the first placed, underground at the start of the building's foundation. The cornerstone was the first stone placed above ground, and the cap stone was placed at the top of the building.
"The history is interesting," said Denise Campbell, administrator of ERCC. "The very first cornerstone was laid at the United States Capitol in September 1793. It is not as common now, but it is still done. It is considered the beginning of a building.
The cornerstone is laid Friday evening at the Elkins Rehabilitation & Care Center by members of the Grand Lodge AF&AM Masons of West Virginia. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart)
"This is how we will begin the life of our new building. We are pleased and excited for this. So many people have said they have heard of this, but have never experienced it."
Campbell said a cornerstone was laid by the Masons for the Elkins Senior Center and some of the local schools.
Before the cornerstone was laid, Gragg said certain memorials would be placed into the cornerstone. Some articles contained in the casket include an ERCC board of directors photograph, ERCC organization chart, Grant County Bank letter, a 2014 coin set, a Mountaineer Gas note pad, a Rotary Club Service Above Self Banner and the Friday edition of The Inter-Mountain.
The cornerstone was lowered into place by the Masons and was deemed to be perfectly square, perfectly plum and perfectly level. The cornerstone was then consecrated with corn, wine and oil.
Gary Schoonover, ERCC board of directors president, thanked those in attendance.
"This is the first ceremony of this nature in Randolph County in a long time," Schoonover said. "We are pleased the Masons came to perform this meaningful and worthwhile service. We are tickled to death to have this many folks attending this ceremony."
Schoonover elaborated about cornerstones.
"The cornerstone is the tradition of dedication," Schoonover said. "Since man grasped at the concept of time and space, man has attempted to establish borders and places to begin and places to end. We, this evening, are anxious to begin a border that encompasses a cornerstone."
Schoonover said cornerstones are designed for their size and angles. He said they need to be perfectly perpendicular, perfectly level and we think this stone fills all those needs.
"The tradition of cornerstone laying began in the United States in the 1700s," Schoonover added. "The cornerstone was laid by Gen. President George Washington. He laid the cornerstone at the Capitol. The tradition has run into several hundred buildings from that point forward."
Campbell thanked the Masons, and said it was fitting the event should take place on West Virginia Day. She shared history of the facility, which was originally located in downtown Elkins behind City Hall.
"In 1998 the facility separated and became a facility of its own," Campbell said. "The building located behind me will be 20 years old in October. We are the only facility in Randolph County that provides skilled care."
Campbell said the expansion will meet the needs of our community and individuals with a need for skilled care, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. If people had a knee replacement, hip replacement, stroke or some type of an accident and need our services, we will have a specialized rehabilitation unit featuring a state of the art gym, a juice bar and an Internet cafe.
Campbell, also a House of Delegates member representing the 43rd District, said the 10,000-square foot addition will offer 15 private rooms.
"There is really three projects in this upgrade," Campbell said. "We will turn one of our units into a dementia unit with an added dining area and activity area. When that is complete, we will need to put in a new parking lot."
Schoonover said construction is expected to be complete this fall. The groundbreaking was in May.