Masonic Lodge will become a temple

By Melvin Mason, The Connecticut Post, Apr 11, 2009

Ansonia, CT (USA) -- Members of the Phuoc Long Buddhist Temple made the most of what they had with the small building in Bridgeport that housed their spiritual haven for more than a decade. Many of the followers also had to adjust to a hefty drive to be with their friends for prayer and fellowship.

Both of those things are likely to change as an old Masonic Lodge on North Cliff Street in Ansonia is transformed into the group's new Naugatuck Valley home.

"It's pretty exciting to look at the new location," said Phuoc Long treasurer Hai Bui. "It's like buying a bigger house. There's lots of anxiety."

Renovations to the 12,000-square-foot former lodge at 14 North Cliff St. only began last weekend, an exciting development for a congregation of more than 200 members looking for more room and more ease for its members, he said.

Bui said the Phuoc Long group, one of three Vietnamese Buddhist temples in the state, has sought a new home for at least two years to replace its 6,000-square-foot temple on Bridgeport's Fairfield Avenue, a former funeral home it has called home since 1997. He said the building no longer suited the groups needs, either for worship services or other events.

"It was difficult to find a nice location at a reasonable cost to fit our needs," Bui said.

But eventually, the group found that the vacant Masonic Temple was available and from there they agreed to purchase the building for $250,000 after the Planning and Zoning Commission in January
approved the building for use as a temple.

The Ansonia space seems ideal for Phuoc Long, a membership comprised mostly of people with Vietnamese roots. It was already zoned for religious activities and fixing it up would be less taxing than building a new temple, Bui said.

Also important was the location. Bui said the space will be easier for Valley members to get to, offer more parking (in a new lot) and cut travel time for attendees living in points farther north, meaning better attendance.

"It will pick up at a more central location," Bui said. "We'll get more people from the northern part of the state. We hope to make that happen."

Rose Duong, 57, an eight-year resident of Ansonia originally from Vietnam, is happy she won't have to travel as far to worship and be with her friends. She's also happy because trips won't be as taxing for her friends who travel from farther north in the state.

"I passed by it many times. So many people are so happy. It's a bigger place and we can have more activities with more space," she said. "And Ansonia is the perfect in-between. I think Ansonia is a good place to be."

Count the Venerable Rev. Thich Minh Duc, the leader of the Phouc Long Temple, among those excited to be making the move to the Valley this summer. "I like Ansonia. It's a small town and I like it," he said.

Initially, Phuoc Long's new home will only resemble a Buddhist temple on the inside. The pointed roof and curvature architecture normally associated with Buddhism will come later. Bui said the congregation will spend another $200,000 in renovations.

"We'll focus on the inside and make the inside feel like a temple," he said. "We'll work on the outside at some point."