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


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Thinking Differently About Lodge Locations

"From East to West;
From North to South;
From the Earth to the Heavens;
From its Surface to its Center;
To show the Universality of Masonry..."

Lodge meeting in a cave in Bisbee, Arizona in 1897

Freemasons, especially in the United States, have a long and colorful history of meeting and conferring degrees in unusual locations. In the earliest days of the Craft when permanent Masonic halls were not yet built, lodges most commonly met in taverns and inns that had a large, private meeting or dining room. Such public houses were frequently the center of their communities by virtue of having the biggest available meeting spaces. But Masonic lodges would also convene in school houses, court houses, private homes, attics, mills, caves, and countless other ingenious or shared locations. Traveling Military lodges had to be especially adaptable.

California's Volcano Lodge No. 56 in 1921

In the 20th and 21st centuries, these types of unique locations were resurrected and used more for dramatic effect than out of necessity.

This past week in Austin, Texas, a Master Mason degree was conferred in the State Capital's historic House Chamber by Texana Lodge No. 123, thanks to a Brother there who is also a State Representative.

Texas State Capitol in Austin

Brethren of Texana Lodge 123

Despite its early-sounding lodge number, Texana Lodge 123 was actually a reconstituted lodge that received its new charter in 2010.

Its much older namesake was originally chartered in 1852, but went defunct in 1883. The new lodge is headquartered in Texas' capital city of Austin, and so they take advantage of that strategic location and their very old heritage by using the statehouse's impressive facilities for special occasions (photos above and right).

The Grand Lodge of Kansas similarly holds various sessions and events like their Leadership Academies frequently in the Kansas Statehouse House chamber in Topeka (below).

And Washington, D.C.'s Naval Lodge No. 4 regularly confers the Entered Apprentice degree each year in a private room inside the U.S. Capitol (below).

Naval Lodge No. 4 at the U.S. Capitol

The International Peace Garden is a 2,300 acre botanical park straddling the U.S. and Canadian border between Dunseith, North Dakota and Manitoba. Opened in 1932, the Garden is a non-profit organization which is supported by several groups and fraternal organizations, including the Freemasons, Order of Eastern Star, American and Canadian Junior Red Cross, the Women’s Federated Institute of Canada, Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Daughters of the British Empire (IODE), and the Knights of Columbus.

The distinctively shaped Masonic Auditorium was built in 1981, and sponsored by the Grand Lodge of North Dakota AF&AM and the Grand Lodge of Manitoba AF&AM. The combined 20,000 Masons of the two grand lodges at that time initiated the $775,000 project for concerts and practice sessions for the young people of the International Music Camp. The Masonic Auditorium is one of the many shared projects in the International Peace Garden that encourages friendship between people of the United States and Canada.

The International Peace Garden Lodge of Freemasons was formed in 1993 with joint warrants granted by the Grand Lodges of Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota. The Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan became a fourth chartering Grand Lodge in 2000. Its purpose is "to promote and enhance fraternal relations among Freemasons of North America and to assist in the expansion and maintenance of the International Peace Garden." It meets once a year in this special and very unique setting.

Outdoor degrees have long been a tradition practiced all over the U.S. I wrote last month about Freemasons and rock quarry degrees, but numerous jurisdictions have set aside special locations in unique settings for conferring degrees or holding meetings, sometimes tied to noteworthy dates or historic events.

Mullen Pass Historic Lodge No. 1862, near the Continental Divide, was the location of the first meeting of Freemasons in Montana in 1862. The outdoor site (above) is used every summer to commemorate that historic occasion.

Also in Montana is Bannack Historic Lodge 3-7-77 (above)that holds its meetings in Bannack State Park, the ghost town that was the original state capital.

But last weekend, brethren in Edmonton, Alberta sent me a video of an outdoor setting they spent several months creating for conferring the Master Mason degree, with their permission to share it here. The brethren were obviously having fun by playing up the spookiness of being deep in the woods in their 'making-of' video (lest non-Masons get the wrong impression of what really happens in our degrees). But have a look at some of their outdoor decorating and staging ideas.

I know there are countless other jurisdictions where these types of innovative locations and many, many more are used. It's unfortunate when they get abused and contorted into purportedly "fun degrees" that use these unusual locations as an excuse to confer degrees in a decidedly un-serious, un-solemn manner (such as "mountain man" style, and the like). Masonic degrees are first and foremost designed to make an indelible impression upon the candidate in his once-in-a-lifetime experience, not to entertain and amuse the onlookers. But as long as everybody keeps that in mind, I think it's tremendous when excited brethren let their imaginations run wild with inventive staging.

As we often said in advertising, where do ideas come from? Somebody else! Steal it and claim it as your own.


  1. This is great! I would love to see something like it. I know in Georgia, there is usually a Tri-state cave degree. I have not made it, but would be something to see as well.

  2. In Washington Union Lodge No.6 sometimes meets in the Cabinet Room of the Old Ebbett Grill. https://www.tripadvisor.es/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g28970-d450339-i251011222-Old_Ebbitt_Grill-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html


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