It took eight years to get the ball rolling on this magnificent building, but once the decision was made to build it, it only took one year. The Ben-Hur building, dedicated in May of 1912, was originally the home of the Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur, a social organization that included women. The Tribe sponsored baseball and basketball teams, drill teams, bowling, and other social events. Insurance was offered to members, and eventually over 130,000 members belonged.
This building would come to occupy the corner of Main and Water Streets, which had been the site for the original office building for the Tribe.The new building was completed in one year, with no injuries reported, which was an accomplishment for such a large undertaking.
The original cost was $150,000, which translates to $3,750,000 in 2016. The intention was to make it as fire-proof as possible, so all walls were constructed of concrete reinforced with twisted steel bars--220,757 linear feet of it! That beautiful white terra cotta tile sheathing that we all love? That is composed of 8650 pieces of white tile, and took 2450 barrels of cement to attach.
All wooden finishes inside the building were mahogany, including the front and vestibule doors. There were also two elevators installed.
The contractors made sure to use materials available or made locally when possible, making this truly a home-town building.