M-A-U-SThese decorative iron letters, each a little over a foot tall, came from the facade of the Masonic Lodge in downtown Rockville. The Maus family (pronounced “Moss”) was a prominent one in Rockville. Col. Louis Mervin Maus owned a two-story brick building at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Washington Street, built around 1890, which he rented out to the local Masonic lodge (he himself was a Mason). These letters spelled out the owner’s name on a gable at the top of the roof.

In 1930 the building was picked up and moved to a new location, to make room for the new District Courthouse. According to a 1967 article in the Montgomery County Sentinel, the move involved “weeks of preparation . . . the building was jacked up and moved, intact, by mule and windlass on rollers . . . 90 degrees clockwise, 300 feet south along Washington Street and 150 feet west across the street.” Some time after that, the facade was altered in several ways, including the removal of Col. Maus’s name (in fact, the whole gable was taken down). Col. Maus sold the building outright to the lodge in the early 20th century, but a series of photographs taken before, during and after the move show that the MAUS name was not removed until the mid 1930s or so. (A note to my readers: I know it’s frustrating to read a description of photographs that I’m not showing you. In this case, the photos are not in the Historical Society’s own collections. But photos from our library may eventually make it onto this blog.)

In addition to its Masonic duties the building had other tenants on the ground floor, including a millinery shop, a small movie theater, and a PEPCO office.  The local Lodge continued to meet there until the 1960s when a new Lodge was built some blocks away, and the old building was sold. Its fate was debated for several years, and in 1974 the building was demolished altogether. As for the MAUS name, the letters may have languished somewhere inside the building for several years, or might have been saved by someone when they were removed in the 1930s. They were donated to the Historical Society by Clyde W. Milor, who owned a local plumbing company; his father Rufus Milor was a building contractor active in Rockville in the 1930s. Probably father or son was involved in the building’s move, remodel or demolition, and saved the letters.

Disclaimer: The fact that I finally finished researching the Maus building this week is purely a coincidence, and has nothing to do with the plots of recent blockbuster novels. I love the MAUS letters and wanted to get them up for others to enjoy!