"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

UPDATE: Who Would Want An Old Masonic Lodge?

UPDATE 11/13/2019: 
I first posted this story a year ago, and just checked it today out of curiosity. This former lodge in Alexandria, Indiana did not sell, and is still on the market currently marked down to $64,000. Just in case you have a hankering to own one of your own. 

Who Would Want An Old Masonic Lodge?  

Got a deep-rooted desire to live in a former Masonic lodge? Twenty years ago, I might have jumped at this.

The former home of Alexandria Lodge No. 235 in Alexandria, Indiana is up for sale for the bargain basement price of just $69,000 (CLICK HERE). The lodge itself was absorbed by nearby Frankton Lodge 607 in 2015, but their former Temple was unique. 

The 11,000 square foot building started life as a private home, and its most recent owners essentially restored the front portion to that original use. 

It has been modernized with five bedrooms and a serviceable kitchen, but its truly magnificent woodwork from the original house is throughout the living areas. Looks like the bathrooms could use a major overhaul, and I see lots of ceiling fans and no outdoor compressor, which make me wonder about air conditioning.

But then walk to the back of the house and you will find the whole lodge room intact and virtually untouched and unaltered, added in what appears to have been the 1920s or so.

If the Hodapps didn't want to downsize our current living arrangements, I'd have snapped it up before telling the rest of you about it. In fact, I'd have snapped it up before telling Alice about it. Then we would have had have plenty of space in which she could refuse to speak to me over it for the next 20 years.

It's located at 414 North Harrison Street in the little town of Alexandria. The sale is pending as of the ad today, but maybe you could outbid them. 

Of course, this isn't the only private residence in a former Masonic temple around here. This one is a manageable size, but a California couple and their three kids decided to take on a much more gargantuan temple to make into a home. 

Huntington, Indiana Masonic Temple now a private home

Theresa and Atom Cannizzaro were originally just looking for a Midwest farmhouse surrounded by a couple hundred acres of land. Then the San Diego couple fell in love with the beautiful former Huntington, Indiana Masonic temple that was originally the home of Amity Lodge 483. They took possession of the building in October 2016, and they've been rehabbing it ever since. 

According to a newspaper article from last year, the Cannizzaros bought most of the original furniture along with the building. 

Amity Lodge moved to a smaller building on the edge of town.

The lodge left behind an entire library of books, paperwork including materials from the building’s 1927 dedication, and other bits and pieces of Masonic history. 

The old lodge room.

The dining hall features a small theater stage at the opposite end. The Cannizzaro kids think of it as the world biggest playroom.

1927 newspaper announcing the Temple's dedication.
Freemasons were front page news then.
The family foresees eventually opening a business in the basement, possibly a brewery. They're in no hurry to finish, and it's truly a labor of love. You can follow their story and their projects at www.freemasontomansion.com.

I just find it fascinating that time after time, private individuals manage to buy, renovate and save the very buildings that entire lodges filled with members claim are too expensive or difficult to maintain. Others seem perfectly happy to keep forking hay at our "white elephants." Why do so many Masons seem so willing to cast them off?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Franco's Exhumation Leads to Vandalism at GL of Spain

The headquarters of Madrid's Provincial Grand Lodge of the Gran Logia de España (Grand Lodge of Spain) were vandalized on October 21st during street protests over the exhumation of the body of long-deceased former Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamond. Digging up the old dictator's corpse last month brought out the pro- and anti-Francoist street protestors and the bored vandals alike. 

The Grand Lodge building was painted with slogans, a swastika and a crosshair gunsight. Protestors also attacked buildings of various socialist groups, Catholic Church buildings, and major Spanish monuments, including one memorializing the creation of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 after Franco had passed on.

Pro-Franco protesters in Madrid
The Spanish Civil War (often called the dress rehearsal for World War II) raged between 1936 and 1939, resulting in Francisco Franco and his Nationalist Party's ascendency to power. The two big name fascist dictators of the period, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini both supported Franco and used Spain as a science project to learn how to wage total war on military and civilians alike. Soviet thug Josef Stalin supported the Nationalists, but even  he used Spain's Civil War as a practice field in the coming battle between fascism and Communism. Hitler and Mussolini both fell in 1945, but Franco clung on and ruled in Spain all the way through his death in 1975. 

Under Franco and his largely Catholic Nationalists, Freemasonry was outlawed in the country. According to Henderson and Pope's indispensable book Freemasonry Universal,  during Franco's almost 40 years in office more than 10,000 Spaniards were arrested for their alleged Masonic membership, and the Grand Orient of Spain went into exile in Mexico.  

The Generalissimo never tempered his anti-Masonic sentiments.  Even in his final speech before his death in 1975, given from (where else do dictators speak from?) the balcony of his Royal Palace, Franco railed against the imaginary "Jewish-Masonic Conspiracy."

Spain's Valley of the Fallen
Way back in 1940, Franco was just as enamored of monumental architecture as his fellow German and Italian fascists were. He decreed that a 'Valley of the Fallen' be built to honor the glories of his dead troops, and that it have “the grandeur of the monuments of old, which defy time and forgetfulness.” The monument in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains on Madrid's outskirts features as its centerpiece an enormous neoclassical- brutalist basilica built of granite, festooned with statues, mosaics, and tapestries depicting heroes, martyrs, Catholic imagery, and plastered with Franco's favorite fascist emblems - all set 800 feet into the mountain. Albert Speer would have been proud, even though it's an odd pastiche of religious iconography and a repressive dictatorial regime. Not surprisingly, it was partially constructed with the forced labor of political prisoners. 

Today the Valley has mass tombs with the remains of almost 34,000 people killed on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. All of it is topped with the tallest cross in the world, rising over the whole valley at 500 feet like an enormous rising thing.

When Franco finally died 44 years ago, his supporters buried him in this giant mausoleum under a 3,000-pound granite slab, where he remained entombed ever since, or at least until last month. Considering the ignominious ends of both Hitler and Mussolini and the subsequent disgrace with which both of them have been held ever since the end of WWII throughout Europe, Franco's mortal remains being surrounded by such a magnificent monument to real-live fascism always seemed more than just a slightly bizarre anomaly. 

Franco's now-former tomb inside the monument's basilica
(New York Times photo)
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party took office in 2018, and he pledged to move Franco’s remains from his mountainside memorial, saying “no democracy can allow for monuments to exalt a dictatorship.” The Benedictines and Franco's family fought back, but after spending two years blocking the move, the exhumation was approved by Spain's Supreme Court in September. Franco was dug up, airlifted, and replanted thirty miles away, next to his wife, several of his ministers, and his pal, the late, former murderous Dominican Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo. 

Nice neighborhood, proving that even after death, you can still pick your friends.

Anyway, back to the Masons.

As I said, relocating Franco's corpse last month brought out the street protestors and the bored vandals on all sides. But true to Franco's own philosophy, laws and foibles, his family came out swinging the loudest of all. They fought the exhumation for two years before losing in September in the Courts. Francis Franco, eldest grandson of the dictator and the Eleventh Marquis of Villaverde, gave an interview the day before the Generalissimo's mouldering bones were removed, and he rattled some old bones of his own. 

Who, he was asked, was responsible for contributing to Franco's mortal coil and evicting him from his overbuilt cemetery plot? You guessed it – the Freemasons. Oh, and the Communists, with whom Francis believes us to be in cahoots: 

Francis Franco, the grandson of the former dictator
From an October 21st interview in El Pais
"My grandfather had two enemies, which are the Masons and the Communists. The law of Historical Memory made by [José Luis Rodríguez] Zapatero, who was a Mason, all he has done has been to create reds and blues, independence and unionists. In the preamble he says that it is for reconciliation and is a lie. It is a political weapon to achieve the objectives of trying to erase the entire era of my grandfather."
So very odd the way various anti-Masons like to conflate the Masonic fraternity with opposing groups like Communists, who ALSO despise Freemasonry and always have. True to his grandfather's tradition. And since the pro-Franco protesters attacked both the Grand Lodge as well as (overwhelmingly) buildings associated with the Catholic Church in Madrid, it looks like the Francoists also think the Freemasons and the Church are pulling on the same oars politically. 

It's hard to keep track without a scorecard.

In response, the Grand Master of Spain, Oscar de Alfonso Ortega, gave an extremely rare public interview in the November 4th edition of El Español in which he said Franco's grandson had crossed a red line by accusing Spain's Masons. Tired of being silent in the face of harassment, the Grand Master challenged Francis Franco, offered to sit him down over a cup of coffee, get over his ignorance, and "break the clichés instilled in him as a child." 

 “His grandfather tried to exterminate us," Ortega said. "I am sure you will understand me when I explain it to you. ”

Oscar de Alfonso, Grand Master of the Gran Logia de España

From the article El Gran Maestro masón reta a Francis Franco a un café: "Le contaré que su abuelo quiso liquidarnos" by Daniel Ramirez (via imperfect Google and Bing translations - you can read the original Spanish at the link): 

The Mason Grand Master challenges Francis Franco to a coffee: "I will tell him that his grandfather wanted to liquidate us"

Before starting, De Alfonso qualifies: the Freemasons are not left or right. Everybody fits in. Freemasons believe in a Great Architect of the Universe, who can bear the name of God, Allah or Buddha ... According to his internal barometer, although the majority religion among the brothers is Christianity. An argument that, according to the Grand Master, dismantles right from the start the "anti-Catholicism" attributed to them by Franco.
Q: The Grand Master does not usually give interviews, and less with an election campaign around the corner. Why have you decided to grant this one?
In recent years we have suffered more than twenty attacks. Each and every one of them have been denounced. But we didn't advertise them for fear of a kind of called effect. They have thrown eggs, they have put Franco's stickers on us, they have drawn swastikas and crosshairs at the headquarters... They have even beaten on the gate of the Lodge with a [sledgehammer]!
Q: And what has changed so that they take a step forward?
Now, military headquarters, churches and offices of political parties have suffered something similar at the hands of the same group of bigots. Stop it now! Let it be known. In the Grand Lodge of Chile they have had to remove move paintings [graffiti?]. Another Masonic temple in that country was set on fire. In New York recently, we suffered an attack with Molotov cocktail. It is as if they were marking us, as if they put a Star of David on our chest. What if one goes from sledgehammers at the door to physical aggression? I accepted this interview so people know.
Q: This week, in a statement, you accused the Francoists of putting Masonry back in the spotlight. Could you explain that?
We respond to statements by Francis Franco in El País, the eldest grandson of the dictator. He said a phrase that made my hair stand on end: “My grandfather only had two enemies. Communists and freemasons. ” That has neither feet nor head. He may be the grandson of Franco, but how dare he say in 2019 that we were his enemies? It is just the other way around! We were victims of extermination. It is history. To complete the 'Judeo-Masonic conspiracy,' he needed to mention the Jews, but with them he doesn't dare now. He didn't have the guts to say it. His grandfather created a Repression Court dedicated to us.
Q: The attack on the Lodge came shortly after the words of Francis Franco. Do they establish a cause-and-effect relationship?
I don't think Francis Franco has any influence over anyone. These groups committed a cross-sectional attack against all the entities that I mentioned. It was planned. The culprits were groups of extreme right and reduced brain.They attack the freemasons because of that collective imagination created by Franco. They neither asked us about the exhumation, nor did we take a position on it. Incidentally, the unearthing was decided by the three powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
Q: What would you say to Francis Franco if he met him?
I would tell him that he is completely wrong. Absolutely. Maybe it's not his fault, but no one has explained to him what Freemasonry is and who the Freemasons are. I offer to explain.
Q: Would you be willing to have coffee with him?
Of course! Freemasons exercise tolerance and profess respect. I wouldn't spit in his face. Quite the opposite. I would put on the table the reasons why he's wrong. I will do everything in my power to get him out of that ignorance. I hope he removes those clichés that instilled him as a child. I say coffee really, not in a [literal] way. I would shake his hand. If you keep two fingers in front, you would realize your mistake right away.
Q: Could you summarize, for those who do not know, how was that persecution of which he speaks? What are the most rigorous data?
4,000 Masons were executed during the Civil War. 80,000 police files were opened and thousands of convictions. Over time, the shootings came to a halt, but they were sentenced to twelve years in prison and forbidden to practice their profession - lawyers, professors, journalists ...
Q: Why do you think Franco made Masons - together with Communism - his great enemy?
He had a sick obsession with the Freemasons. Franco wasn't a fool. Never the less, he sought a kind of fifth column, someone to qualify as dangerous and thus keep his people mobilized. They were not black or Jewish. They [looked just like everyone else]. Something like: "They are infiltrating our ranks and plotting to bring us down." He was great.
Q: It is said that the dictator tried to be a Mason before 1936 and that he was rejected. Is that credited or is it a hoax?
I have heard it several times ... There is no - or has not been found - written proof that it is true. For me it is a rumor, a myth. His brother Ramon was a Mason. And most likely his father was, too. Ramón is proven, and [his father... is 90% proved.]
Q: Why 90%?
I have not seen a [document] as in the case of the brother, but I have read renowned historians who manifest it. Franco's father abandoned his wife and children. Perhaps the dictator developed from that a particular hatred. Although his brother Ramón did not [follow that path]. Nor did the rebel military servicemen who were Freemasons. He used that image of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy when it suited him.
Q: Francis Franco says that Zapatero, author of the Historical Memory Law, is a Mason. Do you know?
Francis proves to have more mouth than brain with those statements ... Zapatero is not and has not been a Mason. His grandfather was, a retaliated, realist military man.
Q: Without giving names - I understand that your codes prevent it - can you tell me if any brother Mason appears in the structures of [today's] Government? In the Second Republic, there were 170 Masonic deputies in Congress ...
There are some Freemasons in the Senate, a couple in Congress ... Many in the autonomous parliaments, in the councils, in the general directorates ... Where we have more presence is in the Canary Islands, with seven mayors. But that doesn't mean anything. Freemasonry is a reflection of society. There are also unemployed Masons, journalists, mechanics, or builders.
Q: Are those two deputies declared or keep their condition secret?
They are confidential. I am convinced that if they came out of the Masonic closet they would have some problems... inside their own parties! I respect that. In any case, the political presence of Masons is a minority. And I'm glad. It makes it easier for me to explain why we are not a lobby.
Q: Today, forty years after the dictatorship, what percentage of Freemasons makes their status public?
Most keep it secret. But I tell you one thing: in the last few years a lot of people have told it. There are two Masonic Spains: an open one that says so and goes out in the newspapers, located on the coast, from Catalonia to Malaga and the islands; and another very conservative, reluctant to exhibit itself, from Madrid to the Castillas through Navarra and Galicia.
Q: Do you have the feeling that, currently and in general, being a Mason is frowned upon or creates distrust?
There is a problem among the brothers. Many keep it inside, which is more [of a personal] thing than [officially as an organization]. Many brethren think that it would bring them problems, such as a layoff or a divorce. There are no signs that this will happen, but they think it will happen. The shadows are, above all, in our brain.
Q: Why should rites be secret?
Masonic rituals are symbolic. We explain our teachings and principles based on a few symbols. We create a ritualistic environment, and the candidate must interpret it. It is a very sensory experience, also aimed at the heart. These rites involve initiation. And all initiations have, historically, been secret. The candidate passes some tests and we accept it. If the ritual were public, why pass tests? We ask for a vote of confidence. We do secret rites, but they are not horrible. There is no blood, we don't kill a chicken, nothing.
Q: Wouldn't opening the Grand Lodge of Spain to women be a sign of progress and modernity? Why don't they do it?
We are a male order. There is another female one. We respect and accept it. There is also another mixed [gender order]. I have no problem with that.
Q: But you leave them out of your 'creed' ... let's say they are not allowed to belong to the "official" Freemasonry.
We follow an ancient tradition, which tells us that we are a masculine order.
Q: Beyond tradition, do they have any reason?
We accept that tradition freely. We are very clear about our DNA. We will not change it. Perhaps it's a difficult position to explain and understand. Sorry. I like that there are Masonic women. I think they can be, but not in the Grand Lodge of Spain.

(I will take this rare opportunity to go right for the low-hanging fruit. For those of you of a certain age, you'll be happy to know that, after the exhumation was performed, Generalissimo Francisco Franco has been determined by officials to still be seriously dead. Doctors say his condition remains unchanged.)

NOTE: This story was edited at 10:40AM 11/12/2019 to correct an erroneous statement that Stalin had supported Franco, when just the opposite was true. That's what I get for chaotic work habits. I also corrected the full name of the Grand Master of Spain, Oscar de Alfonso Ortega, which did not appear in the El Español interview.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

GM of Nevada Rules 'No Multiple Volumes of Sacred Law' in Lodges

Over a month ago, the Grand Master of Nevada, Most Worshipful Steven A. Robinson, Jr., issued an Order that declares the use of any other Volume of Sacred Law (VSL) or book of faith besides the Bible during lodge ceremonies, meetings or degrees is a violation of Nevada's Masonic code.

While the Old Testament of the Holy Bible is central to the origins and allegories of Masonic ritual, in recent decades most U.S. grand lodges have taken a broad approach (or turned a blind eye) to the use of alternative VSLs - especially when obligating new candidates who are not specifically Christian in their beliefs. According to GM Robison's Order, that is not permitted in the Grand Lodge F&AM of Nevada's Masonic Code.

Order No. 1, issued September 26, 2019, states, in part:
"It has been brought to my attention that several lodges are using, or are planning to use, books other than the Holy Bible on the Altar during Degrees or at other times during Masonic meetings.
"I've consulted with the Grand Lecturer concerning this practice. We are in agreement that this practice is not part of our approved and adopted Standard Work as found in our Nevada Masonic Code 4.350 (1). As our Grand Lecturer stated in his Ritual and Work Committee Report at the Annual Communication of 2017: 'Allowing the use of any other than the Holy Bible would be in violation of our Masonic Code, ritual and Work. Deviating from this could be considered a Masonic offense'..."
Click image to enlarge
James Anderson's 1723 Constitutions from which the Ancient Charges have almost uniformly been adopted throughout the regular, recognized Masonic world, let the camel's nose under the tent flap when he famously stated the following:
I. Concerning GOD and RELIGION.
A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly  understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance.
That very first Ancient Charge gave Freemasonry in England a unique cachet, coming on the heels of the English Civil War in the 1640s. The Catholic Inquisitors were still at work in Spain and Portugal. The Protestant movements across Europe were all too frequently bloody ones. But Masonry was a torchbearer for the Enlightenment. It was the first organized, voluntary, associative society that specified faith as a membership requirement, but not the members' religious creed. Less than a century after Englishmen were executed for arguing about how many holy sacraments there were, or whose prayer book was hidden under their pillows, Masonry didn't care what religion you practiced, as long as you DID. That has not changed.

The Charges make no mention of the Holy Bible itself. Because of the way the Ancient Charges are phrased, Jews were permitted to join London lodges just ten years after the Constitutions were published - something that was unheard of at the time. As the British Empire sailed its way around the globe and spread its colonial power and influence to the corners of the Earth, Freemasonry was along for the ride, and the lodges became a way of bridging relationships between important native, local leaders and English colonial officials. Frequently, those local men were not Christian, but were welcomed into the lodge regardless, based on the Ancient Charges. As a result, while the Bible was always present on the lodge altars, it was also often accompanied by the Jewish Tanakh, the Islamic Quran, or other volume deemed to be sacred law by local members. (All three are on the altars of the Grand Lodge of Israel today because their members are Jews, Muslims and Christians.) Different VSLs were used at the very least when a non-Christian took the obligations of the three degrees, and for good reason. A man making an oath before God by placing his hand on a book that has nothing to do with his own faith is a completely hollow gesture, and is liable to cause the man to feel the ceremony violates his beliefs - or is at best, unbinding upon his heart and word. Making accommodations for such members today should not even be remotely controversial.

But I do understand and sympathize with Nevada's rule on the subject of multiple VSLs. Arguments have flared over the last century and longer about what constitutes an appropriate book or symbol to be obligated upon if the new Mason has no specific book in his religion. Feathers, bones and other objects have even been used. Some lodges in the world stack every holy book they can find on their altars like Congress does at their swearing in ceremonies as a symbol of their universality (or occasionally as a virtue signaling stunt). 

Some modern day Masons feel compelled to go through all sorts of ethical and legalistic gymnastics to sufficiently compel their lodges to comply with what is obviously someone being a smart ass tweaking at the fringes of our level of tolerance. In recent years, there's a certain strange development of men who show up with an almost defiant sense of pranksterism and demand their belief be specifically catered to, just as a test to see if Masons really do welcome all faiths. ("I'm a follower of Robespierre's French Revolution-era Cult of the Supreme Being. Neo-pagan-pan-theistic guys like me would join your lodge if I can be obligated on Rousseau, except I don't like organized religiousy sounding things.") 

It's possible to be too open minded to even take your own side in an argument. 

Part of what blew things up between the Grand Orient of France and the rest of the Masonic world over a century ago was their elimination of the Holy Bible on the altar or even a faith requirement at all, with a substitution of a blank, white book as a stand-in for ALL sacred books. So my guess is that Nevada's rule is a very old one, and was designed to draw a line in the sand before these fights got out of hand at a time when the men knocking at the door of their lodges were 98% Protestant Christian in beliefs. Like it or not, the makeup of the American population who espouses any religious or spiritual faith at all in 2019 is much smaller, very, very different and far more nuanced and diverse than even just 40 years ago. Masonry's very construct demands that we draw our membership from only the pool of such men, leaving the 'stupid' atheists, the 'irreligious libertines,' and even any 'smart atheists' out there to look elsewhere. 

Before indignant internet Masons erupt in some explosive insulting of Nevada, the Grand Master, Christians, or American Freemasonry in general, I would urge some major restraint. The wording of GM Robinson's Order No. 1 appears to simply be a clarification of the way Nevada's Masonic Code is written and the basic fact that the Holy Bible is the sole book permitted by it. That does not necessarily mean that he or the Grand Lecturer agree with it (even though they may). It simply means that this practice has to stop unless or until Nevada's Freemasons properly amend their Code to explicitly permit different or multiple VSLs.  Depending upon how strongly some of their lodge members feel on the subject, it's entirely possible that someone in Nevada right now is drafting a resolution for their next annual communication to attempt to change it. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

Soaring Taxes Force Calgary's Freemasons Hall To Be Offered For Sale

Calgary, Canada's historic 1928 downtown Freemasons Hall at 330 12th Avenue SW has officially gone up for sale. According to an article on the Real Estate News Exchange, the brethren can no longer afford the crippling taxes on the property. 

The eventual loss of this central temple will be a massive upheaval for Calgary's Masons. Nine lodges currently meet in Freemasons Hall's Blue Lodge Room and Red Lodge Room: Bow River 1; Perfection 9; Ashlar 28; Mount Lebanon 54; Zetland 83; Concord 124; Lodge Renefrew 134; and Calgary 230. The Calgary Valley of the Scottish Rite, and the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star are based here. In addition, York Rite bodies meet in the upstairs Red Room. A large banquet hall in the basement can accommodate 300 people.

It was originally the home of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Alberta's offices and library, but they moved out several years ago.

Blue Lodge Room
Red Lodge Room
Property taxes on the Calgary Freemasons Hall have skyrocketed - from CA$93,622 in 2015 to CA$158,150 in 2019. That's nearly a 70% increase in only four years, just for taxes alone. Brethren who live in municipalities, states, or countries where Masonic buildings are tax exempt never give these kinds of issues a second thought, but it's a very serious consideration for countless other lodges around the world. Calgary tax officials have valued the building at CA$8 million, but all of us know from long, bitter experience that it won't actually sell for that. Such is the voodoo of tax assessors.

In an article from the Calgary Herald last year, local councilman Jeromy Farkas cited the Masonic temple as a prime example of out of control taxing of large, historic properties:
Coun. Jeromy Farkas, who has advocated for lower property taxes since he was elected to council last fall, said the Freemasons Hall is yet another example of a commercial property tax burden that is spiralling out of control.
“It would be such a shame to have a historic building like this replaced by another highrise,” Farkas said.
“This is another key organization that is being overburdened by rising taxes, an important part of our city’s can-do history.”
Farkas says he wants to work closely with the Freemasons to see what their options are in terms of a tax exemption.
One possibility, he explained, would be to change their designation from Masonic Temple to Masonic Museum.
But Raykhlin said that could introduce a whole new set of administrative and financial challenges.
“It means we have to hire a tour guide, a security guard, and handle all the administration connected with actually being a museum.”
As sad as losing this temple will be when and if it sells, it's even sadder that it is unlikely to be replaced with a facility its equal. With extremely rare exceptions, Freemasons no longer build significant Masonic buildings anymore. Our days of proudly erecting landmark buildings that are worth preserving a century later are long gone. So when the fraternity gives these up, they are gone forever. That's practical in these days of shrinking membership, I know. But I don't think like an accountant, and never have. Economical steel pole barns in remote soybean fields have their uses, but not as Masonic temples that were designed to be bold, impressive, and at the center of their communities.

As for the demographics of the area around Calgary, my friend WB Mike Bayrak writes, "Alberta continues to boast the youngest population per capita in Canada and I believe North America as well. Edmonton has youngest per capita in Alberta. You’d think it was ripe for new members..." 

Yes, you'd think. But not if we don't get busy and start telling our story to the public with greater insistency.  As each generation slides farther and farther from any shared cultural knowledge of who and what the Freemasons are, our job is harder than ever before because we have to remind the public on a regular basis. 

Calgary is a case in point. When their Freemasons Hall was built, the mayor was a Mason, countless local officials and community leaders were Masons, and so was a measurable proportion of the population. Now, I'll guarantee you that most mayors,  city councils, and everyone in tax assessors' offices wouldn't have the slightest idea who the Masons are without resorting to Wikipedia. 

That's nobody's fault but our own.

UPDATE 11/2/2019: 
I am informed that my original last statement of opinion unfairly characterized Calgary's elected officials, who have apparently been quite sympathetic to the plight of the Masons and Freemasons Hall for several years and made suggestions to assist any way they could under the current laws and tax code. The hall did actually receive a substantial tax credit in 2018 because of that help. As a result, I have slightly altered my wording in the last paragraph to make it more generalized. 
However, as the quote from Jeromy Farkas above illustrates, the Masons didn't seem interested in actually doing something like reclassifying the hall as a museum and hiring a token museum employee to get a tax break that would have more than offset the expense.
Interestingly, it still doesn't appear that any of those officials mentioned are, in fact, Masons today - which only illustrates the vast difference between now and when it was built in 1928. Like it or not, we have lost our prestige and cachet of the past that once attracted the men who were the movers and shakers in our communities. Today we remain something those modern officials vaguely recall their grandfathers belonging to without seeing any compelling reason or benefit or attraction join themselves. 
And yes, that is our own fault for getting to this point. 

(BTW, I was looking over the Grand Lodge of Alberta's website for information for this story, and came across a listing of their officers and districts. I don't know about anybody else, but I sure wouldn't want to be known as the District Deputy Grand Master of the Dinosaur District. I fact, I'd be hard pressed to want the word 'dinosaur' to appear on a web page about Freemasonry under ANY circumstances. There's also a link to the Dinosaur Schedule. Yes I know it's a local name for the area, but you're just asking for somebody to point you to the nearest tar pit...)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Masonic Cowboy Boots

The weather wizards are already predicting snow here in Indiana on Halloween night, which is usually the point at which the few responsible people in the world start thinking they're behind on considering Christmas presents. So I occasionally spot things others might consider to be proper Masonic gift items.

Despite the fact that my in-laws all relocated to Texas in the 1980s, cowboy hats and cowboy boots fall into the category of stuff I don't own. Horses and I have never mixed well (all of them I have ever ridden have decidedly been diabolical and unholy escorts of Beelzebub himself, and entirely untrustworthy to invest my life upon for any length of time). Thus, I classify personally owning the associated apparel to be fraudulent. 

That's as may be - the world is nevertheless filled with folks who never punched a single head of cattle who cheerfully have closets full of cowboy headgear and footwear. Masons included. And so...

Teskey's saddle shop in Weatherford, Texas is offering online a line of both Freemason and Past Master cowboy boots, in round and square toe design, priced at $399 a pair. These have been made by the Anderson Bean Boot Company, in Texas. They are described as having 10" tops, hand-tooled, with leather soles, double-stitched. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Tri-State Masonic Degree Exemplification in Grand Rapids, MI: 11/23

On Saturday, November 23, 2019 three midwestern U.S. Grand Lodges will come together for a Tri-State Masonic Degree Exemplification. This is a rare opportunity to see how the three Craft Lodge degrees are conferred in these sister jurisdictions. The Grand Lodge of Michigan F&AM will be hosting the Tri-State Degree Day at the Grand Rapids Masonic Center. 

Grand Rapids Masonic Center
The three Blue Lodge degrees will each be presented by the grand officers of the Grand Lodges of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan respectively, without lectures and charges. 

The Entered Apprentice Degree will be performed by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana; the Fellow Craft Degree by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Michigan; and the Master Mason Degree by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Ohio. 

All Master Masons in amity with the Grand Lodge of Michigan are welcome to attend this demonstration of the degrees. 

Obviously this is a tyled event, so be sure you bring your current dues card - Membership will be verified. And if last year's gathering in Indianapolis was any barometer, it wouldn't hurt to toss in an apron if you have one, just in case the supply is tight.

This event begins promptly at 1:00 PM. Please know that the schedule for the day is full and they will be moving from one degree right into the next.   
  • Entered Apprentice Degree - presented by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Ohio 
  • Followed by the Fellow Craft Degree - presented by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana
  • Followed by the Master Mason Degree - presented by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Michigan
3:45 PM (Estimated) - Light Reception with Cash Bar

Registration with payment of $20 is due by Friday, November 15, 2019. This may be paid via PayPal or check payable to Grand Lodge of Michigan mailed to 1204 Wright Ave., Alma, MI 48801.

Wreath Laying Ceremony To Follow at President Gerald Ford's Gravesite

At 5:00 PM that Saturday there will be a wreath laying ceremony at President Gerald R. Ford's gravesite presented by the Grand Lodge Officers of Ohio, Indiana & Michigan.  The Ford grave is located at 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Because of the tumultuous twists of history, Gerald Ford is the only person ever to have served as both Vice President and President without being elected to either office. 

Brother Gerald Rudolph Ford served as the 38th President of the United States between 1974-77 after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. Ford had been appointed as Nixon's Vice President in December 1973 following the resignation of Spiro T. Agnew. He lost the presidential election of 1976 to Jimmy Carter, and his was the shortest term in history for an American  president who did not die in office. But Ford's steady, affable nature combined with his moderate political views and policies helped to calm a nation at one of the most fraught political periods in U.S. history.

To date, Gerald Ford is the last U.S. President to have been a Freemason. 

Brother Gerald Ford was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on September 30, 1949 in Malta Lodge No. 465 in Grand Rapids Michigan, along with his three half-brothers Thomas Gardner Ford, Richard Addison Ford, and James Francis Ford. Brother Gerald's Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees were conferred by Columbia Lodge No. 3, Washington, D.C., on April 20 and May 18, 1951 as a courtesy to Malta Lodge. He was also a member of the Scottish Rite and the Shrine.

In 1975, Ford was made an honorary grand master of the Order of DeMolay. That same year, he visited the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia for the unveiling of a plaque in the auditorium marking his own presidency. Ford's speech at the event was later published in his public papers, and in it he spoke of his own Masonic journey.

"When I took my obligation as a master mason — incidentally, with my three younger brothers — I recalled the value my own father attached to that Order. But I had no idea that I would ever be added to the company of the Father of our country and 12 other members of the order who also served as Presidents of the United States. Masonic principles — internal, not external — and our order's vision of duty to country and acceptance of God as Supreme Being and guiding light have sustained me during my years of government service. Today especially, the guidelines by which I strive to become an upright man in Masonry give me great personal strength.
"Masonic precepts can help America retain our inspiring aspirations while adapting to a new age. It is apparent to me that the Supreme Architect has set out the duties each of us has to perform, and I have trusted in His will with the knowledge that my trust is well-founded...
"Let us today rededicate ourselves to new efforts--as Masons and as Americans. Let us demonstrate our confidence in our beloved Nation and a future that will flow from the glory of the past. When I think of the things right about America, I think of this order with its sense of duty to country, its esteem for brotherhood and traditional values, its spiritual high principles, and its humble acceptance of God as the Supreme Being..."
After the post-degree reception at the Masonic Center, the grand officers will depart for the Ford gravesite at 4:30PM. 

If you require overnight accommodations in Grand Rapids, there is a limited block of rooms available at the Amway Grand Plaza. Feel free to use the link below:

Amway Hotel Booking Website:

If you have any questions, feel free to contact a representative directly at 989-466-3091