The hall is also home to Zingabad Grotto. Both groups will continue to reside there until the building is sold. And some members have expressed a desire to continue to rent their lodge room space from new owners, if possible.
I came across the early story of Harmony Lodge in an 1870 volume of The Masonic Trowel magazine. Following the shuttering of the first Grand Lodge of Illinois by 1827 during the most rabid years of the Anti-Masonic period, Masons in Jacksonville were issued a dispensation in 1837 by the Grand Lodge of Missouri, and chartered as Missouri's Jacksonville Harmony Lodge No. 24. In fact, the Grand Lodge of Illinois AF&AM was actually resurrected and organized at the original Masonic hall in Jacksonville on April 6, 1840. At that time, six Illinois lodges were issued their new Illinois charters and it became Harmony Lodge No. 3. Jacksonville was later the site of several annual communications of the revived Grand Lodge over the years. That's a significant milestone for Illinois Masons, and Harmony Lodge 3 deserves to have a significant home bespeaking its vital historical role. Let us hope they can remain in this unique temple, or erect a new one worthy of that heritage, and not just another anonymous steel shed in a cornfield.
According to an article last Thursday in the Journal Courier, the Masonic center will be sold through an online, no-reserve auction by Cory Craig Auction Service at corycraig.com. Bidding will begin April 1 and continue through 6 p.m. April 30.
Jacksonville sits about 35 miles west of the state capitol of Springfield. According to the article, at its peak the lodge reportedly had almost 1,200 dues-paying members, likely during the height of Masonic popularity in the late 1950s—today, they are down to 250 (although it's unclear whether they meant the lodge or the Grotto).
Brother Jerry Maples down in Texas has family ties to Jacksonville, Illinois , and he penned a thoughtful letter to the newspaper over the weekend.
While I realize that membership is declining and rental revenues are declining from businesses that occupy parts of such eloquent buildings, I still feel sad over such sales.
I know they are needed, given those realities. Still, at one time the Masonic Hall of nearly any given city was a hub of community life. Masonry existed long before radio, TV, telephone or internet. Going to a lodge meeting was more than mere “male-bonding” — it was where one learned of births, weddings, community news, deaths and notices of people in need … and the Masons are noted as a benevolent association that endeavors to help others, both members and non-members.
Although the members constitute “the lodge,” I still maintain that the historic ambiance of some lodges add to the initiation experience of a candidate. Freemasonry is not a religion, yet it inculcates virtues lessons in ethics. The lodge halls can be downsized.
Masonry will survive, but somehow I don’t feel it will quite be the same. Yet I encourage any man interested in good moral virtues who wishes to associate with other like-minded men men to consider joining.
You’ll be glad you did.
James A. Marples, Longview, Texas
Amen, Brother. Amen.