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


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Watch MasonicCon 2018 Via Livestream Today

MasonicCon 2018 is going on today at Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, Massachusetts. if you aren't able to be there in person, they are Livestreaming their programs throughout the day on Facebook. 

To watch the live video feed, CLICK HERE.

If you don't want to spend the entire day staring into your computer or squinting at your smartphone, be sure to check out the complete schedule of events and speakers on the MasonicCon 2018 website HERE.

Monday, April 23, 2018

More Masonic Temples Slip From Our Grasp (Part 2)

Oh, how I do so love our tree forts. Which is why it hurts so much to see them perish.

For lovers of lost architectural treasures, it's difficult to scan through the website of Chicago's Urban Remains. That sad site has been documenting the destruction of that great city's neglected, forgotten, "obsolete" buildings for a very long time now.

While their company and their associated Bldg 51 Gallery and Museum near downtown have thankfully preserved tens of thousands of architectural details and artifacts from buildings now gone, most of the edifices these were created for originally have been scraped from the Earth forever. Scrolling through their pages, you will find numberless details, lovingly created by dedicated craftsmen for things as insignificant as doorknobs, elevator call buttons, water fountains, exit signs, or just a dark corner most people never would have looked closely at. It didn't matter in those earlier times, because EVERY single detail mattered, and architects and builders built monuments for the Ages then. Not disposable, featureless, faceless, artless, identical boxes and cubicles. Architecture was an art then, not a commodity or a necessity, but a Craft.

Among the collected online archives of Urban Remains there appear at least two major Masonic temples that were both built in Chicago in the 1920s, and both were designed by prolific local architect Clarence Hatzfeld. 

Logan Square Masonic Temple

The first was the Logan Square Masonic Temple at 2451 N. Kedzie Street, northwest of downtown, erected between 1921-3. At the time of its construction, Freemasonry in the neighborhood was booming. The large and impressive Temple building was home to Logan Square Lodge 891 and several appendant bodies - and yet even as big as it was, it still wasn't capacious enough for all of the local neighborhood's Masonic-related activity. 
Humboldt Park Commandery No. 79

So, the Knights Templar of Humboldt Park Commandery No. 79 marched right across the street two years later, bought an 1897 Queen Anne mansion complete with a crenellated tower (appropriate for the knightly order's "club house"), and built a new adjoining asylum building as well. The two combined buildings still survive today, as the Stan Mansion (above, left) and the William Nowaczewski House (above, right).

Logan Square Temple is now the Armitage Baptist Church

Communities change, populations shift, and just reading numbers and figures rarely tells the whole story. Just six years after the Masonic fraternity reached its most enormous size in the U.S. (and Illinois), the Masons of Logan Square sold their building away in the 1960s. It was too big, too costly, too under-utilized by the Masons who had fled to the suburbs, after just forty years or so. The temple thankfully still survives today as the popular Armitage Baptist Church. But how much did Freemasonry change in size and interest in the last century? Consider this.

Logan Square Lodge eventually merged away and became part of William McKinley Lodge 876, which would merge again and again, finally being absorbed into Clarence P. Schwartz Lodge 1163 today. But it's much more complicated than that. Look at that lodge's total combined historical pedigree:
  • ELMWOOD PARK No.1163 (Mont Clare No.1040)
  • ASHLAR No.308 (Niagara No.992) (Guardian No.1140)
  • WRIGHT'S GROVE No.779 (Constantia No.783) (Constantia - Lessing No.557) (Trestle Board No.1032)
  • WILLIAM McKINLEY No.876 (Vega Herder No.669) (Logan Square No.891) (Crystal Honor No.1025)
The combined membership of what appears to have been thirteen lodges that all started merging about fifty years ago today meet in the Mont Clare Masonic Temple at 6910 W. Grand Avenue in Chicago.

South Side Masonic Temple in 2014

Less fortunate has been down south in Englewood. After more than a dozen years of being listed at or near the top of the "Most Endangered Buildings" lists in Chicago, at long last the South Side Masonic Temple at 64th and Green has finally met the wrecking ball. In its prime, it was home to the lodges named Mispah, Boulevard, University, Kosmos, Richard Cole, Cyrene, Wildeck, and Southtown, along with countless appendant bodies. Just like Logan Square, it too was constructed in 1921, and also gave up ownership in 1964 (though many bodies remained as renters until the 1980s).

Now, after decades of neglect and the ravages of time and vandalism, Eric Nordstrom has documented its destruction on the Urban Remains website, back in January.

January 14, 2018

I suspect that by now, there's nothing left to mark the former presence of Freemasonry there but a muddy, empty lot.

For a quick overview of some of Chicago's Masonic landmarks,

2018 World Conference on Fraternalism in DC: 5/18

The 2018 World Conference on Fraternalism, Social Capital, and Civil Society explores how associationalism and volunteerism have shaped democracy, politics, and history. Each year, it alternates between Washington, DC and Paris.

This year's Conference will be held on May 18th, and the theme is The 200th Birthday of Rob Morris. 

The Policy Studies Organization is the owner and publisher of the journal World Affairs, founded by Quakers in 1837 and the oldest continuous journal on international issues in the world. So it is fitting that this year's Conference will take place at Washington, D.C.'s historic Friends Meeting House, 2111 Florida Ave NW, Washington D.C.

Presentations will explore the growth of clubs, lodges, labor unions, freemasonry, the place of ritual, ceremony and secrecy, and the implications for gender and political legitimacy. 

This year's speakers include:
Guillermo de los Reyes - Fraternalism, Feminism, and the Eastern Star 
Nancy Theiss - A Beacon of Light: How Rob Morris Gave Credibility to the Women's Movement
Teresa Lynn - The Little Lodge on the Prairie Revisited: Surprising Eastern Star Connections 
Cécile Révauger - Call me Sister!: A World View 
Olivia Chaumont - Gender Issues within Masonry: from Theory to Practice 
Emanuela Locci - Female Freemasonry in Italy 
Demetrio Xoccato - Freemasons in the New World: Italian Lodges in the USA

Paul Rich, Guillermo de los Reyes - As Fraternalism Evolves

The Conference is free to attend, but please register at the website HERE.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dayton Masonic Center Video Tour

Ohio's 1926 Dayton Masonic Center is a truly magnificent building. It is home to multiple lodges and appendant bodies, as well as the Dayton Valley of the Scottish Rite.

If you've never had the opportunity to see it in person, the Decoding Dayton website has just produced a 14-minute video tour of it.

See it HERE:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Patrick Craddock at Indiana's Lodge Vitruvian 4/24

UPDATE APRIL 24, 2018: Patrick Craddock has been unavoidably forced to cancel his appearance at tonight's meeting. The lodge will reschedule with him, hopefully later in the year.

I will be filling in for him and will speak about Indiana's Bicentennial year, Dwight L. Smith and the Sesquicentennial in 1967-68, and my new book, Heritage Endures. Please join us.

Come join Lodge Vitruvian in Indianapolis for fellowship and scholarly discussion on the evening of Tuesday, April 24th. Our Keynote Speaker for the evening will be noted expert on Masonic aprons and regalia, author and historian, WBro. Patrick Craddock of Conlegium Ritus Austeri No. 779, Nashville, Tennessee. As of January, he is the new President of the Masonic Society.

Patrick received his Master of Arts degree (Middle Tenn. State University ’92) and Master of Philosophy (University College of Wales – Aberystwyth ’01) in history. He is a contributing author to Encyclopedia of Tennessee History, as well as a past-curator of exhibits at the Carter House Museum in Franklin, Tennessee. 

Initiated, passed and raised in O.D. Smith Lodge, No. 33, Oxford, Mississippi, he is a life member Hiram Lodge No. 7, Franklin, Tennessee and an officer and charter member of Conlegium Ritus Austeri No. 779 in Nashville. Additionally, he is the owner of The Craftsman’s Apron, manufacturers and providers of the highest quality Masonic regalia and period reproductions of historic designs.

7:00 – 8:00 PM Stated Meeting

Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 F&AM
Broad Ripple Masonic Temple
1716 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46220-2338

We are determined to complete our business in one hour.

8:30 -10:30 PM Festive Board

George’s Neighborhood Grill
6935 Lake Plaza Drive
Indianapolis, Indiana 46220
“In the style of European Lodges, members are expected to dress in tuxedo for all Communications of the Lodge. Members also purchase their own regalia, (apron, collar, gloves, case), according to Lodge Vitruvian specifications.”

Visitors dress should be tuxedo, or business attire.

Each attendee will be responsible for the cost of his and their guest’s meal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Multi-Million-Pound London Freemasons' Donation Deemed 'Controversial'

Last Friday must have been a slow news day in Britain, because yet another dustup over the Freemasons made it into the press there. The Telegraph reported that the London Fire Brigade has accepted a "controversial" donation of a whopping £2.5 million (US$3.5 million) from the UGLE's London lodges for outfitting two ladder trucks with extended aerial ladders to reach high-rise building fires, like the horrific Grenfell Tower blaze last July.

Why is it "controversial"? Well, it certainly must be since it's set in 120 pt. typeface in the paper and on the Telegraph website.

According to the article, at least one member of the Fire Brigades Union apparently took issue with the fact that the donation came with the codicil that a square and compass symbol appear on the trucks to acknowledge the UGLE's generosity. 

From the article by Sophie Jameson:
Paul Embery, of the Fire Brigades Union, told Channel 4 News that there were concerns over donations from “secret societies”.
"We don't want to sound uncharitable but our concern is that this is really a slippery slope,” he said.
“The idea of private companies or secret societies effectively purchasing front line emergency service vehicles and having their insignia - free advertising effectively - we are really concerned that could lead to a greater inflow of private money into what really is a private service."
Paul Embery is the Regional Secretary of the Union (FBU). Back in January, he was quite vocal about budget cuts for firefighters and equipment in London, and he claimed there was a correlation of a rise in deaths from serious fires as a result. London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton had requested specialized firefighting equipment as part of her review into the Fire Brigade's resources that she was asked to undertake by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in July after the Grenfell fire. Government coffers were dry, but the FBU's General Secretary Matt Wrack was immediately critical of the notion of private organizations and societies like UGLE funding major equipment via charitable donations to pick up the shortfall.

“Whilst we appreciate the charity of anyone who wishes to support our firefighters, the idea that a professional, life-saving public service has to go around with a begging bowl to organisations with deep pockets is deeply alarming.
“If the equipment is needed to save lives, then the funding for it should be provided by Government. This deal sets a pretty awful precedent that could allow the Government to discharge its responsibilities in the future.
“We also have grave concerns that the donation in question has come from an organisation that disbars women from joining – a deeply offensive practice that needs to come to an end.”


The FBU doesn't want a donation from London Freemasons partially because they don't admit women as members. (Why am I reminded of Basil Fawlty standing in the lobby of Fawlty Towers shouting, "Honestly I don't know why we bother. We should let you all burn!")

Freemasonry across Great Britain is even more heavily concentrated on high-visibility, public charity than we are in the U.S. in most cases, and very large donations like this are not unusual. The UGLE's official appeal donations represent the third largest charitable body in the UK (after the Sainsbury grocery store chain's foundation and the National Lottery), and that doesn't even count donations made by individual lodges apart from the UGLE-sponsored official ones.

In the last few years, Freemasons of the UGLE (and especially of the London Metropolitan lodges) have officially donated almost £4 million for several rescue helicopters in the UK, including two London Air Ambulances. They have donated five high-powered, rapid response cars to help support the work of the London Ambulance Service. The Masons have also purchased a large number of rescue lifeboats all across the country. Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons recently donated a brand new fully equipped emergency response motorcycle to Blood Bikes Cumbria. Numerous other Provinces have donated to rescue services, hospitals (including at least one MRI machine), hospices and countless other worthy causes. A truly comprehensive list is impossible to compile.

Many of the emergency vehicles heavily funded by the UGLE charities have featured a square and compass symbol on them as an acknowledgement of their generosity and of their dedication to improving their communities.

Many of these donations were made to supplement community services that would have otherwise cost taxpayers more money, or would otherwise have just done without for budgetary reasons.  This current London Appeal for £2.5 million for the London Fire Brigade is a continuation of that dedication. 

But the Telegraph and Paul Embery and Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigade Union find all of that "controversial" and some undefined "slippery slope." Because, you know, "wimmin." 

One wonders if the Grenfell fire victims would have shared their squeamishness.

Thankfully for the citizens of London, the actual Fire Brigade itself is more than happy for the donation and finds no "controversy." From the Telegraph article:
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said it was not unusual for emergency services to accept charitable donations and it would be “irresponsible” not to consider any donation that could save lives.

“The donation we have received from the London Freemasons follows similar support offered by the organisation to other emergency services including the London Air Ambulance and London Ambulance Service," the spokesman said.

“The expectation for branding also follows similar support offered by the London Freemasons to other emergency services in the capital.
“The safety of Londoners is our priority and if we are offered any significant donation we can use towards equipment which could help us further protects Londoners and save lives, it would be irresponsible of us not to consider it.”

Indeed it would be.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Greensboro, N.C. PHA Masonic Temple Destroyed By Tornado

Last night, April 15th, the 135 mph winds of an F2 tornado ripped through the east side of Greensboro, North Carolina. One motorist was killed when a tree fell on his car, and two passengers in the same vehicle were injured. While they were the only human casualties of the storm, hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in that part of the city and in across Rockingham County.

At an east side Greensboro Prince Hall Masonic temple, several brethren were setting the lodge up for a meeting this week as the storm approached. They were all able to leave the the lodge before the winds kicked up, but they watched from a distance as the storm tore apart the cinderblock building. It was directly in the path of the tornado.

The Sunnycrest Avenue temple was home to three PHA lodges: Climax Lodge No. 832 , C.W. Lawrence Lodge No. 837, and Luther Kimbrough Lodge No. 838. It was also the home to Genesis Chapter No. 673 and Rebecca Chapter No. 656 of the Order of the Eastern Star.

The Sunnycrest Avenue PHA Masonic temple before yesterday's storm

The MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina's website has not yet officially reacted to the damage. 

However, North Carolina Brother Marcus Orr has started a GoFundMe page to receive donations here. Please consider a donation:

Two videos of the damage can be seen below.

While we're all certainly grateful there was no further loss of life or injuries in Greensboro, the destruction of the temple and its irreplaceable artifacts and records represent a terrible loss to their Masonic community. All brethren are encouraged to do what they can to help, aid and assist them to find a temporary home until theirs can be rebuilt.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Passion of Masons in the Quarries

1898 Masonic degree conferred in 'Solomon's Quarry' (Zedekiah’s Cave) 
below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Archeologists working in the Old City of Jerusalem in the mid-1800s discovered a cave below the Temple Mount, the onetime location of King Solomon's Temple. The subterranean entrance, known as Zedekiah's Cave, led to an ancient stone quarry underneath the former Temple complex, and it was quickly dubbed by Biblical archeologists as 'Solomon's Quarry,' the source of the stones used to construct the sacred Temple three thousand years ago.

Kentucky Freemason and founder of the O.E.S. Rob Morris made a famous Masonic pilgrimage to the Holy Land to see the quarry and many other sites connected with our ritual, and wrote a book of his travels in 1875 that inspired members of the fraternity all over the world. Enthusiastic English Masons who had enough money to get there themselves organized the first degree conferral inside of Solomon's Quarry in 1898. 

A popular Holy Land souvenir for decades was a Masonic gavel set made from stone cut from the Solomon's Quarry site, with a handle and wooden carrying case made from olive wood. But Masons who couldn't make the trip to the Middle East themselves found substitutes closer to home — performing 'quarry degrees' outdoors in a still functioning operative stonemason's rock quarry.

You don't hear all that very often these days about quarry degrees. They're not totally unheard of anymore, but they're nowhere near as popular as they were during the early and mid-20th century. The combination of shrinking memberships, the fraternity's lack of enthusiasm as a whole, and legal liability all seem to have conspired together to make these ceremonies in such incredibly symbolic surroundings much rarer today.

Which brings me to Indiana, home of some of the greatest limestone deposits and quarries anywhere in the United States. Indiana celebrated its 150th Masonic anniversary, its Jubilee Year, between 1967-68. On August 19th, 1967, the nine original founding lodges of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, or their direct successors assembled under a full moon and reunited in a stone quarry near Salem, Indiana to jointly confer a Master Mason degree. Then Grand Secretary Dwight L. Smith had deemed the evening to be "Freemasonry's Link With Antiquity," and it was perhaps the event dearest to his heart because of the historic symbolism. 

Dwight was not just a Grand Secretary, he was a force of Nature. He began planning the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana a full decade before it kicked off. Dwight was a trained journalist. He became editor of his local newspaper in Salem, Indiana in 1934, at the age of just 25, and he had grown up living and breathing Indiana history. He brought that same zeal for Indiana and its founders into Freemasonry when he became a very active young member, also at 25. He would soon take on editing the Indiana Freemason magazine, a position he held more than 40 years. He took an ordinary monthly Masonic newsletter and transformed it into an internationally acclaimed, informative Masonic magazine that was subscribed to by even more readers outside of the state than in it. Every issue contained thought-provoking Masonic education and historical articles, at Dwight's insistence. He demanded it. At the time, it was considered one of the very best and most informative Masonic magazines anywhere in the world.

Dwight was determined to get Indiana’s Masons sufficiently enthusiastic by 1967, and many of the traditions he and his committee started have continued every single year ever since. In my new book Heritage Endures, I devote a big section up front describing the monumental celebration Dwight Smith and the Grand Lodge pulled off for those twelve months between the Mays of 1967-68. Dwight had 250 Indiana Masons working as part of his enormous Sesquicentennial Commission in every corner of the state, and what they did was truly monumental,arranging major events for every month. Sure, Indiana had 175,000 or so members around those years, as opposed to our 50,000 today, so we had a lot more warm bodies then, and more money perhaps. But consider something else. 

We had far more enthusiasm about ourselves as Masons, too. It was an age when we believed just about anything was possible, so we thought and expected the very best of ourselves.

Things don't happen in a vacuum. The world was in enormous turmoil at that precise time in history. A contentious presidential election. The expansion of the military draft and the Vietnam War. The still powerful Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain, with constant threat of nuclear confrontation. The mysterious nation of Communist China had just exploded their first hydrogen bomb. The Six-Day Arab-Israeli War that we are living with the ramifications of today. Nightly news coverage of race riots, and war dead no one had seen unfold in their living rooms in living color before. The U.S. space program had just lost its first human casualties in the race to the Moon – three astronauts, including Indiana Freemason Gus Grissom perished in the Apollo 1 fire. A breakdown in traditions and morals. Social and racial strife. A sudden national loss of religious faith and the 'God is Dead' movement. Technological changes happening so fast that people were unnerved by the ways their own lives were affected.

It all sounds so remarkably like the world we are living in right now, doesn't it?

Indiana's Sesquicentennial Masonic celebration was deliberately designed by Dwight Smith to show the world that Freemasonry was the inverse opposite of all of that chaos and turmoil. If society was a wreck, Masonry was a rock. The very day after China exploded their H-Bomb, Indiana Freemasonry was on television all over the state, telling its story instead.

Dwight’s plan all along was to use the 150th anniversary to plant seeds all over Indiana, and the quarry degree in Salem on that August 1967 evening was just one of them.

Site of operative quarry Masonic degree at Salem, Indiana in 1967

Of the original nine founding lodges in Indiana, only Vincennes No. 1 and Brookville’s Harmony No. 11 remained that had enjoyed an uninterrupted existence since January 13, 1818. Three more, Madison’s Union Lodge 2, Lawrenceburg Lodge 4, and Rising Sun Lodge 6, had ceased for a time, but new lodges had been permitted to form again with their same historic names and numbers. The remaining four had dissolved, but were succeeded by new lodges with new numbers: Melchizidek Lodge at Salem was replaced by Salem Lodge 21; Corydon’s Pisgah Lodge 5 was succeeded by Pisgah Lodge 32; Vevay Lodge 7 by Switzerland Lodge 122; and Charlestown’s Blazing Star Lodge 3 by Blazing Star No. 226. The Masonic Heritage Program for the 150th Jubilee Year branded this event as one of the most significant of the entire twelve-month celebration, as it was the only time these historic lodges had ever met together for such a purpose.

Before the meeting convened, dinner was served to nearly a thousand guests at the local school in Salem. Following the meal, 1,800 Freemasons from Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, California, Canada, and other jurisdictions all marched down Quarry Street and descended deep into the stone pit a mile away for the degree. It took forty-five appointed Tylers stationed around the perimeter of the area just to guard against any approaching cowans and eavesdroppers. A brief period of rainfall caused some panic, as the Masons fled for cover before the opening gavel could be struck. But the rain quickly stopped—Dwight simply wouldn’t permit it. The bleachers installed for the occasion were dried, and by nightfall the full moon peeked over the rim of the high, sheer pit walls from a clear sky. It fell to the officers of Dwight Smith’s own lodge, Salem No. 21, to open the lodge under the star decked canopy in this “low dell,” and the Sublime Degree was conferred by a cast made up of members of all nine of the historic lodges assembled.

The Grand Secretary had been determined this night would be central to the celebration from almost the first discussions of the Sesquicentennial Commission back in 1960. He even had specially ‘illuminated’ scrolls created by hand as a tribute for each of the nine lodges by artist and calligrapher Arthur G. Duvall, Past Master of Evansville’s Lessing Lodge 464. The individualized certificates duly noted the names of each lodge’s own “Pioneer Freemasons” who had taken part in the formation of the Grand Lodge in January 1818—23 in all. As the meeting was opened, Smith read an introduction to the crowd, giving the historical background of the occasion. In noting that only two of the founding nine lodges had actually survived intact for a century and a half to witness the Jubilee year, he remarked,
“In a very real sense this assembly is like unto human life: those who lay the foundations seldom live to place the capstone. One generation puts down the working tools: another generation takes them up and carries on.”
The quarry degree was just one single event that year. With erecting almost thirty permanent bronze historical markers all over the state, television programming, countless local and statewide occasions and gatherings, plays, endless press releases, Dwight's new book Goodly Heritage, and all the rest of the “bread and circuses” he and his committee cooked up, what he wanted to do was pass along the IDEA of Freemasonry, to members young and old, and to curious onlookers who might see a spark of light and knock at the door of a lodge someday. That passion was contagious.

Today we have Indiana’s own Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D. in his memory, but there seems to be a feeling among those who knew him personally that he would never have approved of such a thing at all, let alone one named after him. Dwight felt that it was the role of everyMason and every lodge everywhere to do research, and to study the history and heritage and symbolism and philosophy of the fraternity, not cloistered away in a single lodge that meets twice a year. You shouldn’t need an excuse to think and work and achieve.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a famous world aviator and journalist, and reputed by many to have been a French Freemason. He was the author of The Little Prince, if any of you took French classes and had to read it. He once wrote:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  
And that’s what Dwight and his committee and the Grand Lodge were really doing — inspiring their brethren 'to long for the endless immensity of the sea' that is Freemasonry. Dwight didn’t do it alone, he had lots of help. But he saw it all, it was his vision years before. And he dragged all of Indiana's Masons along with him on that voyage. He expected better, and he got it in return from his equally enthusiastic brethren.

It's long past time that we started demanding better of ourselves once again, and living up to the same expectations that Dwight had for himself and for this fraternity, and to once again teach others 'to long for that endless immensity of the sea' that is Freemasonry. Nobody is going to do it for us and there’s nobody else to blame now. And guilt is a lousy motivator anyway.

Men don’t join a club called Freemasonry. They join to BECOME Freemasons. They join because of the IDEA of what becoming a Freemason is to them. I certainly did. I suspect you did too. I hope so, anyway. Everybody fixates on the mantra that we need more new members all the time. Well, we've got far bigger troubles than just plumping up our numbers. We can get all the new members we want, if that's all we want. But those new members will never stay, and keep coming back, and they will never come to truly love Freemasonry as an idea until our own existing members truly love it first. Until we all rekindle the passion we all had for the fraternity on the night of our Entered Apprentice degrees.

We have no business obligating another new Mason until then.

And until every single one of us longs for that endless immensity of the sea that is Freemasonry.

*   *   *   

With that in mind, if you are in or near Indiana this summer, you will have two opportunities to experience what those 1,800 Masons did in 1967 in Salem, or those English brethren did in Jerusalem in 1898 — to imagine Hiram walking among the stones in the quarry, surrounded by the workmen all hard at work. 

Mark these two upcoming dates on your calendar. 

• On May 5th, Noblesville Lodge No. 57 is holding a Master Mason degree in a working stone quarry outside of Noblesville, Indiana. For details, contact the lodge or check their Facebook page.  
• And later this summer, on September 15th, Eden Lodge No. 477 in Greenfield, Indiana will also perform a Master Mason degree in a stone quarry near McCordsville, Indiana, and there will be a hog roast beforehand. 
For obvious reasons, I'm not giving details here. But come and celebrate 200 years of Freemasonry in Indiana with us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Detroit Masonic Temple Begins $3.7 Million Renovation

The care and feeding of a truly landmark Masonic Temple is far from easy, and takes constant work. Fortunately, there are brethren who will not let these priceless treasures go down without a fight. Case in point: the Detroit Masonic Temple.

Ever since I joined this fraternity 19 years ago, I've had a special place in my heart for Detroit's Temple. If you've never visited it before, you must go out of your way and do so. It is the largest Masonic building in the world, with 1,037 rooms, three theatre auditoriums, an indoor drill team hall, an indoor pool, bowling lanes, barber shop, dormitory rooms, dining rooms for thousands of guests, and a dozen lodge rooms. And more. Much more. Every inch of the enormous block-long complex is covered in loving detail from the heady days of the 1920s when Detroit's automotive pioneer titans like Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers competed with each other in donating to its building fund. We don't have many members like that these days, I'm afraid.

But also since I joined, the Temple has spent those same 19 years teetering on the brink of being sold, auctioned, bankrupted, taxed into the Stone Age, or just falling to pieces. After both the Scottish Rite and Shrine left the Temple in the early 2000s, things looked very bleak indeed for the remaining lodges and York Rite bodies in the "fraternal tower."  And yet, something always seemed to happen at the last minute.

Well, this weekend the Detroit Masonic Temple Association has announced a new $3.7 million investment to repair and refurbish parts of the sprawling building. $2.5 million is to be spent on exterior work alone, but the remaining money will go for rest rooms, insulation, and improvements to the heating and cooling system. The hope is to lease out 30,000 of its 55,000 square feet as business or hotel space. The money is from a loan, not an outside investor or donor, but that's a big difference from where they were just five years ago when few outsiders had confidence in the Temple. The MTA seems to have picked up some more true believers these days, and that's because they never gave up.

The Masonic hosts about 300 events a year. Half of those are lodge meetings and the rest are things like weddings, plays, corporate events and concerts. The Temple has an annual budget of about $1.4 million, 90% of which comes from event revenue. And they are very inventive when it comes to attracting events, like the annual Theatre Bizarre that just gets bigger each year.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Masonic Tour to Scotland and England: September 12-22, 2018

Over the last year, the Board of Directors of the Masonic Society asked Brother Greg Knott to spearhead the organization of a Masonic tour from the U.S. to Scotland and England. Greg and Brother Todd Creason have worked with a tour group there and have just announced this trip between September 12 - 22, 2018, leaving from Chicago, New York, or Washington, D.C. 

The trip will include sites in Edinburgh, Stratford-Upon-Avon, London, and more. Some aspects of the trip will be in tyled locations, so Masonic credentials will be required for those parts of the tour. The complete itinerary can be seen HERE.

Cost is $4,479 per person. Limited space is available, so make your reservations soon. To read the details and reserve your spot, see the website for the trip HERE.

Appearing on 'Whence Came You' Podcast

Out of sheer coincidence, I wound up on TWO different Masonic podcasts this past weekend. Sunday night, I was on the X-Oriente podcast talking about The Crisis of Men in America and what Freemasonry can do about it.

But I was also asked by Robert Johnson to contribute to this weekend's "Get To Work!" episode of his Whence Came You? podcast, which also features Brother Steve Harrison.

Give it a listen HERE.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Appearing on X-Oriente Podcast Tonight: Freemasonry and the Crisis of the 21st Century Male

Last month, I wrote a long post entitled "The Decline of Men, and What Freemasons need To Do About It."  That single post was one of the most viewed, shared, and discussed articles I've ever written here. It obviously struck a chord among Masons, especially in the U.S., and I hope the conversation continues in lodges around the country for quite some time.

Tonight at 9PM EST/8PM CST I will be joining Eric Diamond and Jason Richards on the X-Oriente Live podcast speaking about what an increasing number of researchers and sociologists regard as the crisis among the 21st Century male. It's complex, far reaching, and there are no single causes or simple answers. But I continue to believe that Freemasonry has a very strong role to play in solving some of these issues. Or at least being a sanctuary from the world where men can attempt to solve them for themselves. So, we'll be talking about this on the show tonight. 

Check out the Xoriente website HERE. If you can't listen live, be sure to catch the archived show later.

Just as a little extra food for thought before the show, Eric posted the following very thoughtful message on my Facebook page in response to my original post. He's been thinking about this for a long time, too:
I think we've gone thorough some deep philosophical changes, that started in the 1970s. There is a generational aspect to it, in that those changes largely follow the baby boom, but the effects are not exclusive to boomers. I think it began in the 1960s when electronic media started exposing the hypocrisy that was an undercurrent in American society. This led to widespread and growing mistrust in our institutions: government, the church, higher education, and with the spectacle that was Watergate, our fourth estate (the press) learned that gotcha journalism sells. It was as if JFK challenged the nation not to ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, and the moment he was killed the nation turned away from that.
The breaking of Society (with a capital S) in the 1960s, gave way to what became the "me" generation, with people pursuing their own forms of self-actualization outside of communities. They abandoned mainline churches for new start-up evangelical communities, which demanded little of their followers than money and declarations of faith. It is at this time that marriage starts to break, with no-fault divorce.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the most terrifying worlds were"I'm from the government and I am here to help." That cemented a whole generation of people who oriented themselves toward dismantling institutions rather than trying to reform them. A mythos of the self-sufficient American Pioneer grew more powerful in people's minds. The truth is, up until that point, the only communities of self-sufficient speculators in America were Jamestown and Roanoke, and they both failed because they did not work together. The rugged individualistic cowboy, the frontiersman, was an aberration, a character that had no status and inspired a sense of curiosity. For most of human history, a man without a community was a dead man.
The truth was, that America succeeded because of communities of people that worked together to varying degrees. People had a sense of duty that was driven by status and a sense of propriety that derived from the communities they were a part of: their civil society. One's reputation in these communities was everything, and men worked hard to be upstanding members of their communities.
By the 1980's all of that was in decline. I remember t-shirts of the time said "those who die with the most toys wins." Status was now about what you had, not who you were. A sense of consumerism took hold of our culture. Institutions were now no longer a place to build a reputation, as reputation had little social relevance in the face of money. "Lifestyles of the rich and famous" showed us the lavish spending that was possible and this is what we fixated on as a society.
The purpose of higher education was not to make gentlemen, or a more competent electorate, but to prepare elites to have high-paying careers. The best and the brightest no longer went into government, academia or the State Department: they went to work for Lehman Bros. or Goldman Sacks. "Greed" became "good."
With the rise of technology, we can now connect to more people, but like Robin Dunbar noted, our interactions have become more shallow. We no longer write long and thoughtful letters to each other-- we text, because we don't read anymore.
And Masonry reflects this. Grand Lodges are falling all over themselves trying to find things to "give" initiates things. We must "give" them an experience. We must "give" them education. We must "give" them convenience. We must "give" them programs. We must "give" them badges and titles. Our lack of trust in institutions has set many of us in opposition with our Grand Lodges. For the first time in a long time, the Grand Lodge of Illinois isn't even going to propose a per capita increase even though it desperately needs one, because they haven't been able to pass one in more than 15 years. They have given up.
We've lost a shared sense of community, of common purpose and of duty to each other. We are suspicious of devoting our time, effort or money to anyone unless we see a direct benefit to us. It even extends to charity, where we will only contribute if we feel the person "deserves" it. We are only interested in helping if they are a member of our tribe, our church, our party. We are more concerned with "welfare queens," than improving the welfare of our society. (How best to do that is a political discussion, which we need not explore here.). We are more concerned with "voter fraud" than with instilling the idea that voting is a sacred DUTY. In another Facebook thread, a Freemason actually wrote, "Why should I give my hard-earned money to help educate someone else's kid?" Because you are an American? Because you love your country? Because you are a Freemason? Have we learned nothing?
Somehow, unless it concerns children, being compassionate, asking for help and freely giving help is somehow seen as "unmanly." We think that masculinity means we are self sufficient. Islands. And then we are isolated and depressed. We set ourselves against other races, other genders, other sexual orientations, other religions. Rather than help the man who is down we turn away and avoid them as if it is some form of communicable disease. We isolate ourselves online in carefully curated social media bubbles, and then we wonder why our suicide rate is climbing.
I've always said that the purpose of Freemasonry is to teach men how to love each other, care for each others' welfare in spite of our differences, in a uniquely masculine context. Women don't need to learn to do this. They are (rightfully) empowering themselves, and with movements like Time's Up, are supporting each other. And as a society, we are applauding them for it. We have a movement too, but we've let it languish. It is time we reclaimed it.
We have lost the essence of what Bro. Ben Franklin said, supposedly moments after signing the Declaration of Independence: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
It is time for the Age of Enlightenment 2.0.

Join us for the show.

UPDATE 4/9/2018

The show is now available on Youtube today HERE.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

More Masonic Temples Slip From Our Grasp (Part 1)

When the English essayist John Ruskin wrote his 1849 architectural treatise, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Freemasons all over Britain and America paid especially close attention to him. Ruskin expounded on the substance and purposes of architecture, and how it was directly linked to civilization itself — he was careful to separate 'architecture' from mere ‘building.’ He labeled each broad concept a different ‘lamp,’ providing ‘light’ in various ways: Sacrifice, Truth, Power, Beauty, Life, Memory and Obedience. 

In the chapter “The Lamp of Beauty,” he wrote, “When we build, let us think that we build for ever.” Freemasons of an earlier era certainly took his vision to their hearts, and you will find Ruskin widely quoted in Masonic publications, especially starting around 1890 with the beginnings of the 'City Beautiful' movement. I've been quite fond of Ruskin's works since I discovered them in college, and he is eminently quotable. But this is perhaps my favorite of all of his writings, and I have taken it to heart all of my adult life when it comes to saving historic buildings:
"They are not ours. They belong partly to those who built them, and partly to all the generations of mankind who are to follow us. The dead have still their right in them: that which they laboured for, the praise of achievement or the expression of religious feeling, or whatsoever else it might be which in those buildings they intended to be permanent, we have no right to obliterate.
"What we have ourselves built, we are at liberty to throw down; but what other men gave their strength and wealth and life to accomplish, their right over does not pass away with their death : still less is the right to the use of what they have left vested in us only. It belongs to all their successors. It may hereafter be a subject of sorrow, or a cause of injury, to millions, that we have consulted our present convenience by casting down such buildings as we choose to dispense with. That sorrow, that loss we have no right to inflict."

The grandest building boom for Freemasonry all across America was unquestionably between 1900 and 1930. Indeed, in November 1925, the Indiana Freemason magazine observed,
"'From gulf to border and coast to coast the sound of hammer and hoist heralds the progress of Masonry as stately temples, imposing mosques, memorials, clubs, and other buildings grow from architects’ blueprints into complete structures,’ says the Missouri Freemason. Hardly a week goes by that does not see the formation of a new project, the laying of a cornerstone, or witness the dedication of some Masonic building.” 
Many of America's most prominent landmark Masonic buildings have managed to survive a century or longer since their original construction. Most of the enormous and truly landmark ones date from the early 20th century boom period. We have few surviving American examples of very large and impressive Masonic temples from before the dawn of the 1900s,  though there are noteworthy exceptions like Philadelphia. But time has conspired to wreak its inexorable damage from two ends of the spectrum: Masonic membership today is almost one third the size it was in 1929 (3,295,000 vs 1,150,000); AND those buildings are in need of constant updating and high cost repairs. Fewer Masons often translate to mean smaller, cheaper surroundings, unfortunately for those of us who cherish these places and fight to keep them at any cost.

Thankfully, there are visionary people who do not regard our Temples as "white elephants," who see beauty and greatness when all our own members see are expenses and problems. Others increasingly value our treasures when we no longer do. The 1869 former Maryland Grand Lodge Temple on Tremont Street in Baltimore (right) is a magnificent example of a careful developer caring for our temples after we pitch them overboard.

Read about their restoration work HERE.

And the Grand Lodge of Maryland AF&AM thankfully replaced their old Temple with an equally magnificent modern one up in Cockeysville. At least they were sensitive and visionary enough to retain some of its grandeur using modern materials. 

In fact, I urge any Mason who is on a committee charged with building a new Temple to have a look at Maryland's facility built in the 1990s. Or at Chicago's new Scottish Rite Center, which is also a magnificent new edifice worthy of being called a Masonic Temple.

Sadly, most Masons tend to have deep pockets and short arms when it comes to building new temples these days, unlike our grandfathers and great grandfathers. How many more irreplaceable landmark temples on town squares across America are we going to flee and substitute with ugly, steel pole barn sheds in cornfields that look no more like a Masonic temple than a garage for tractors or a dentist office? How are they any replacement for what came before us?

Much like the design of a great church, entering a Masonic lodge should focus the Mason's mind on his purpose for being there, "to learn, to subdue my passions, and improve myself in Masonry." The most criminally misunderstood phrase in Masonric ritual is that the fraternity regards the internal and not the external qualifications of a man, because we've gone on to apply that philosophy to our temples, too. The truth is that what is on the outside is a reflection of what goes on inside. Our forebears designed and created stately and magnificent temples because they wanted the world and their own members to know that great men had entered their doors, and that great things went on inside of them. The more we neglect our temples on the outside, the more they rot spiritually on the inside, spiraling into lethargy and failure. And an abandoned temple is a symbol that the Masons who once inhabited it gave up.

Countless of these magnificent buildings that were "built for the Ages" have been lost to the fraternity, but that hasn't always meant their complete destruction. Deep-pocketed investors and visionaries have sometimes stepped in to rescue and adapt them for modern use. 

In the last couple of weeks, there have been some notable stories about our vanishing Masonic temples. Below are just a few of the latest. This is just Part One...

St. Louis' 'New Masonic Temple' Closes Today

St Louis’ New Masonic Temple’s final days as a Masonic building ended this weekend as the last bits remaining were sold off this morning and its doors locked. 

The temple was sold back in November to a St. Louis investor named Bryan Hayden, known for developing luxury apartments and condos. Construction of the 'New Masonic Temple' began in 1924, and it was dedicated in 1926, and 10,000 people attended its opening ceremonies back then. 

Parts of the building were never finished due to the Great Depression, and the 14-story building includes an unfinished theater designed for 2,200 seats. At one point, the Temple was the home of former Grand Master Harry S Truman’s office.

Milwaukee's Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center

Have a last look inside the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center before it is gutted. The 128 year old building was sold in late 2017 to a developer that plans to turn the historic building into a 220-room hotel. Ascendant Holdings will renovate the Center and add an incongruent 14-story tower above the existing building. But at least it will survive in its new form.

The Scottish Rite bought the building in 1912, and it contained a large theatre for the Rite's degrees, a lodge room, a mahogany ballroom, and even the Double Eagle Pub.

See the complete slideshow from the Milwaukee Business Journal HERE.

Fairbanks, Alaska's Historic Masonic Temple Destroyed

After standing for 112 years and surviving fire, floods, earthquakes and countless heavy snowfalls, Fairbanks’ historic 1906 Masonic Temple on First Avenue was done in by the winter of 2018. On March 17th, a heavy snowfall collapsed the roof of the building. The National Weather Service reported that 80 inches of snow had fallen in Fairbanks by April, making it the 18th snowiest winter on record and the snowiest since 1992-93.

The Temple was the oldest standing building in Alaska.

When the roof collapsed, authorities agreed that the temple was a total loss, and it was demolished.

From the Fairbanks News Miner website on April 8th:

Originally constructed as the Tanana Commercial Company Store, the Masonic Temple, 809 First Ave., was built in 1906 and purchased by the Masonic Lodge two years later. The tin-pressed facade, perhaps the building’s most notable element, was added in 1916. President Warren G. Harding spoke from the building’s steps when he visited Fairbanks in 1923. In 1980, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Renaissance Revival style, popular during the 1880s and 1890s in the lower 48 states, appeared in Fairbanks as late as 1916. Thus, the "new" face from the 1916 remodeling is as representative of early Fairbanks as the original front it replaced.
The absence of stone and brick material in the construction of the facade was most striking. The Masons created the entire effect with sheet metal, painted a light reddish-tan color and affixed to an underlying wooden support. Kits for such facades were once available from mail-order catalogs. The facade not only furnished a low-maintenance exterior but also provided a visual affinity with Masonic Temples in the lower 48 states, without the expense of stone and brick construction.
The pragmatic approach remained an ongoing tradition in later alterations during the Masons' lengthy tenure. Starting with basically a warehouse, the Masons enlarged it, strengthened its foundation and floors, added a more energy-efficient compound front door, and low-maintenance aluminum siding. They replaced a weakened porch balustrade with a less elaborate metal rail and displayed reserve on interior remodeling.