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MASONIC MANSION: Couple turns Freemasons hall into dream home

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HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WPTA21) - "Well... they were like what!? Are you crazy?"

Theresa and Atom Cannizzaro aren't crazy, but they are ambitious. In 2016 the couple uprooted their life in San Diego and moved to Huntington, Indiana -- which in itself is a daunting task.

On top of the cross-country move, the couple purchased a behemoth 20,000 sq. ft. former Freemasons hall with the idea of turning it into their dream home.

"It's definitely not what we were envisioning when we planned to move from San Diego to the Midwest. We wanted an old farmhouse with lands... We just happened to drive by it and saw this big giant magnificent building for sale, so out of sheer curiosity we called the realtor," Theresa Cannizzaro said.

The couple purchased the building for $89,000 dollars and made the big move.

It wasn't an easy transition.

The couple will quickly point out to you the building didn't even have showers when they first moved in.

They worked around this by using a portable shower tent that you might see on a campground.

We're told they have showers now, but our camera crew couldn't confirm.

"You're adapting a space to your needs. But this is on a grand scale -- is that frustrating at times?" ABC21 Anchor Brien McElhatten asked.

"Timewise yes. When you come from a house where you can redo a bathroom in a weekend... You know, you can repaint it, put a new toilet in, put a new vanity in, hook it up and then you have this great feeling of completion. You've done something and it doesn't take that long. Here, getting used to a kitchen taking a year to do is very different and very frustrating. Because instead of going to the store and buying everything, I'm making each piece exactly the way we want to do it," Atom Cannizzaro said.

When Atom says he's "making each piece" he means it. He's taking on the majority of the home improvement work himself.

"The first three years have been a lot of structural, electric, plumbing. Getting a bathroom and shower. Kitchen, especially. "

"I enjoy it, you know, I have two boys and our little princess. They all are at different stages. You know, if I can teach them to do a little wiring or a little plumbing or I can teach them how we're going to restore this floor today you know... I might get them for a little bit. The whole family gets involved."

While Atom is focused on improving the home, Theresa is focused on sharing it. Their social media pages "Freemason to Mansion" already have enough followers to make any aspiring influencer look on with envy.

"I'm a big social media person. They were like 'you need to make a Facebook page for this project because of, you know, mysteriousness behind the building and the secret society stuff.' So I was like oh I don't know. So I finally made a page that's organically grown to 27-thousand followers. That's just on Facebook."

"It's been good for me to have people cheering me on so when it does seem overwhelming or it doesn't feel like we've done that much in the building. It's nice to have that encouragement that we didn't make a huge mistake being here," Theresa said.

However, Theresa tells us all this work isn't for any validation: it's for their family.

"You guys are making some fun memories here?" McElhatten said.

"We are. How many kids can say they are growing up in a former Freemason temple as a house?" Theresa said.

As to what's next for the home? The Cannizzaros aren't quite sure what to tell people.

"People ask us that a lot and we don't really have an answer. Because we don't know. There's so much to do. And we can get it to a place where its comfortable, I mean its pretty comfortable right now but there's always going to be what do we do?"

"What's next? It's going to be a while until its completely done," Theresa said

ABC21 Web Exclusive: A look inside one of the coolest bedrooms a kid could have

Ian Hoover

Ian Hoover is the Content Manager of Fort Wayne’s NBC and ABC21. His focus is managerial oversight of content including working with reporters on elements for their stories and with producers for deeper content in newscasts; long-range planning and content development; editorial meeting oversight; and special projects management.

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