The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

Disappearing Lodges

A trend that has been going on for a while is that lodges are losing their buildings for various reasons. My guess is that the decline in interest in Freemasonry over the years has hurt the fraternity to the point that majestic buildings, like this one in downtown Toronto, are closing up shop, merging together or else jointly renting one space that can be shared among several lodges. This last option is what happened in Toronto.

MTV Masonic Temple

Many Masons regard this trend as a negative and very sad thing. However, I see problems like this as opportunities for the future. On one hand, yes, it is sad to lose the building we called home, which is imbued with such history stretching back many years before our own. On the other hand, the problem of declining memberships and thus declining income is real. If several lodges can band together and help each other by renting a space together or else merging, that is the ultimate demonstration of Masonic relief.

In the case of this lodge building in Toronto, MTV recognized that it is an important city landmark and thus kept part of its identity. I would love to see inside the building to see if any of the fixtures and part of its old character are still there.

My lodge is lucky. We have a retail space on the first floor and have had a tenant there – same tenant, mind you – for quite a number of years. If I am not mistake, the hardware store has been there since the building was completed. I am not sure about that claim but can check.

As such, we have a constant stream of income and have been able to save over the years. We have a nice little nest egg with which to do building improvements and support the various events and charitable works we do, not to mention covering regular expenses. If we had to go on dues alone we would be in deep trouble.

With about 225 members and dues recently raised to $75 per year, we have an income of $16,875. That does not account for those of us who have already purchased lifetime memberships and thus no longer pay yearly dues. That also does not account for brethren who have fallen on hard times and are not current, or else owe back dues. but even if we did have that whole amount in dues, we surely would be scraping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet. Mind you, we are talking about the Washington, DC area, which is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. That money would go much farther in many other places.

At some point it makes sense to merge or else find space to share. Sure, it’s a bit sad but I would rather be sad than see the fraternity disappear.

  • Lisa says:

    You’re right – in many cases they are beautiful buildings and I’m glad to see any efforts to preserve them instead of watching them be torn down and replaced with generic construction that inspires nothing. Even if the tenants aren’t serving the original purpose, the construction makes you think about the people who built it and why.

    March 19, 2009 at 11:36 pm
    • Carl says:

      Yeah. Good point, Lisa. The nature of Feemasonry is wholly symbolic, so the building itself does not matter as much as some would say. I still find this type of thing a bit sad, though. I bet the building looks completely different inside but I’d love to see for myself out of curiosity.

      March 20, 2009 at 9:57 am
  • Bob Strawn says:

    A disclaimer here, I am not, nor am I likely to become a Mason. That out of the way, I hold the Masonic Orders in the highest regard.

    Here is a short history of Masonry, from another perspective.

    At one time men set about in an effort to produce more glorious settings to show their respect for the divine. In doing this, they had to learn physics, math and construction methods that were not available within their communities.

    In learning these sciences, arts and technologies, they also had to learn respect for men of cultures outside their own. Men who also respected the divine, but did not use the same terms or dogma’s.

    These sciences, arts, technologies and broader understandings of faith, were not things that they could openly discuss. These men had to work closely with men of faith, that were not as open in their thinking.

    In constructing edifices, for the glory of the divine, that took multiple generations, with political,financial and religious issues at every turn, these men who set out to glorify became subtle, learned and perceptive.

    The results were science, democracy, education, freedom and choice. Fairly large results from the simple goal of glorifying God. At few moments did it ever seem that the Masons were actively perusing these goals. Yet the results are much greater than the cathedrals built.

    I don’t think for a moment that God is through with the Masons. As long as the Masons continue to give without thought of reward or praise, their future is assured.

    If you want to know the future of the Masons, look at the great and pervasive ills in the world. Expect change.


    March 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm

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