Thank you for visiting us today!
Freemason Abbey has been a part of Norfolk’s history since the 19th century. Although not always known as Freemason Abbey, this building has always served as a gathering place in one form or another since its inception in 1873 as a Second Presbyterian Church. It was given the present name since it is located on Freemason Street. The name Abbey is in honor of having previously been a church. It has never been affiliated with the Freemasons as some may think.
In 1902, the property was sold to the First Church of Christ Scientist.
From 1948 through 1987 it served as the meeting hall for The Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Pictured to the left is the one image we have that shows the small paneled room with a low acoustical ceiling and no windows.
When it was purchased in 1987, it was a dilapidated structure in need of much repair. We saw potential in the old building and had a vision of a restaurant in the former church setting. The vision was inspired by a visit to a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia called The Abbey. This vision was transformed into reality and once again the building felt new, exciting and full of life as a meeting place for all to enjoy. How appropriate that many couples become engaged over dinner or celebrate a rehearsal dinner in the “former” church.
In 1989, we were recognized with a Design Award for care and consideration in the adaptive reuse of the former church. There were two suspended ceilings that had been constructed over the years to conserve heat. When these were removed, it exposed huge cathedral roof trusses. The second floor was added when it was made into the restaurant.
As you see in the picture on the right, the windows were boarded up. The boards were removed and the wood that you see around them, original to the 1873 church, was restored. The stained glass in the bar is original and if you look up in the vestibule on your way out, the stained glass in the bell tower is original as well. Unfortunately, the bell was gone. We could have had fun with that!