THE EARLY DAYS
The first recorded meeting of Masons in the Salt River Valley of Arizona was for a funeral in 1874 and the first special meeting held during the period of Dispensation was to conduct a funeral of a sojourner. The first organizational meeting was held on June 25, 1879. At the first stated meeting after receiving their Dispensation August 15, 1879, the lodge negotiated a lease for $50.00 per month, which they were to split 50-50 with the Odd Fellows. Then, at the September meeting, two committees reported: The first one to: (1) consider renting the hall to the ‘Improved Order of Red Men” and (2) to confer with the Odd Fellows to buy ground for a cemetery. The first committee reported negatively on (1) and the Lodge agreed; although they reconsidered twenty-five years later and approved a lease for $25.00 per month effective 3/1/1904. They did agree to consider buying ground for a cemetery, the beginning of a major activity for our Lodge.The second committee was the first investigating committee and they reported favorably on the petitions for Messers George H.N. Luhrs, John Y.T.Smith, and Louis Gazelle.
FROM CALIFORNIA TO ARIZONA - THE ORIGINAL CHARTER
The original charter for Arizona Lodge No. 257 was dated October 16, 1879. The first meeting as Arizona Lodge No. 257 (under California) was held on November 17, 1879 and the first election of officers of the chartered lodge was held on December 16, 1879. The first public installation of officers was held on December 27, 1880. and the first meeting as Arizona Lodge No.2 (under Arizona) was held on July 17, 1882.
The first by-laws of the lodge called for the stated meetings to be on the Third Tuesday. On November 21, 1882 it was changed to “Tuesday on or preceding the full moon” and on December 23, 1890, it was changed to the first Tuesday.
The lodge was to ultimately have four meeting locations during our lifetime – in the 200 block of East Washington; on the west side of Central Avenue a half block south of Washington, across the street from the old Luhrs hotel; on the northeast corner of Washington and 1st Avenue; and this building (unfortunately the Secretary’s minutes were silent as to the actual address. In our original location, the Lodge and the Odd Fellows shared the hall, the lodge having exclusive use on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Odd Fellows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with Sunday being “common and the use to be determined.” In March 1880, Arizona Chapter RAM is first mentioned as renting the Hall for $12.00 per month, with the rental being split evenly with the Odd Fellows. They are to pay pro rata lights and fuel but make arrangements with the janitor and the arrangement is to be for only six months.
October 28, 1884 the Order of Chosen Friends were granted use of Thursday of each week for $15.00 per month. Then, in the minutes of August 22, 1885, mention is made that “The Odd Fellows, and other orders moved out of the building but that the lodge remained in the Hall owned by J.A.R. Irvine.”
Dues for Service Men
On July 5, 1898, action was taken “the dues of every brother of this lodge who enlists as a private in the U.S. Army to fight for the honor of our country will be remitted during his term of service in the Army.” This was also accorded “any and every brother who stands suspended for NPD and who enlists as a private in the Army be and is hereby reinstated and dues remitted during his term of service in the Army.” No mention was made in the minutes as to who or how many qualified. Then, in the “Great War”, our lodge authorized on August 7, 1917 a token of identification to be provided each member of the lodge going to war and that a committee be appointed with full power to act to provide the same. On November 6, 1917 they remitted dues of all members enlisted for service in the war during the period of such service. On December 4, 1917, they sent members now in the army suitable Christmas remembrances. The Lodge also assisted in the war effort by selling war savings stamps through the Lodge War Savings Society, which had been established early in 1918.
BUILDING A TEMPLE
In 1887, a committee was appointed to look into the feasibility of building on a “Masonic Lot” (not identified) but it was decided, “to do nothing”.
April 7, 1891 – “made leases for five years with the branches of 100F, KofP, and Owen Post of the GAR, all of which, together with the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons bring a regular monthly income of $125.00 – Lodge rent of $75.00 per month and allowing $50.00 for expenses makes the cost of the lodge FREE”.
November3, 1891 – The Junior Warden was authorized to purchase twelve spittoons for use in the Lodge room and a committee was named to investigate the possibility of installing electric lights.
February 6, 1900 – Considered nine locations for possible purchase by the Lodge for a location for a Masonic Temple, the area was as follows: 1st Street on the East, Van Buren Street on the North, 2nd Avenue on the West and Jefferson Street on the South. All but one of the locations were corner lots. Somewhere between 100’ and 150’ on one side and 55’ to 137’ on the other. The one exception to this size was the entire block between Van Buren and Adams, 1st and 2nd Avenues which could be obtained for $15,000 for the south half and $5000. for the North half. The ultimate location purchased was not included in this list. At that meeting, a committee was instructed to recommend a location for a Temple and draft a plan of organization – it was given one more month. And, no report until four months later, June 5th 1900 when a motion was made: that “a committee of three be appointed of whom the mover of this resolution be not one” to consider and report to the Lodge the advisability of the lodge building a Masonic Temple.” As so frequently happens, no further mention of this committee until eight years later (February 4, 1908) when a committee presented a proposal to purchase the Homer Building (on Central Avenue ‘you know the property, it is centrally located”.
After a gap of thirteen years during which no mention is made of the matter, until on April 5, 1921, the lodge voted that a committee of three – the Master and two to be appointed by him – have full power to cooperate with the Trustees to go ahead and select a location; approve plans and build a Masonic Temple. The minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trustees could no doubt furnish the details lacking in the Lodge secretary’s minutes but, unfortunately, they are nowhere to be found.
On July 5, 1921, a building fund was established by putting all funds and monies not required for the operation of the lodge or of Greenwood Cemetery into the building fund. The Board of Trustees were authorized to negotiate a loan as required for the completion of the building.
On January 2, 1923 – The Chairman of the Board of Trustees proposed “the purchase of 150’ frontage on Monroe Street at the SE corner of its junction with Fourth Avenue for the price of $25,000.00”. He also proposed “the 100’ frontage on Washington Street at the corner of 14th Avenue be turned in at a valuation of $4000.00 as a part payment of the purchase price. The proposal was approved.”
The Secretary’s minutes are conspicuously silent on the progress from then until reference is made to a “Big Night” December 29, 1925 which makes mention that the Grand Master, MW Brother Otis J Baughn, called the Grand Lodge from labor to refreshment for the purpose of laying the cornerstone of a building “about to be erected at Fourth Avenue and Monroe Street, in the City of Phoenix”. “The Grand Marshal formed the Grand Lodge and brethren in procession and proceeded to the site of the building, where the cornerstone was laid according to the ancient usages of the Craft.” A picture is in those proceedings of the brethren standing in framework of the building looking toward the southeast showing the palm tree which was used for many years as the dividing point between our property and that of the building to the east that most recently housed the Arizona Bindery Company, both of which are now obviously gone.
The cost of the new Temple was reported at the meeting of the Lodge on April 6, 1926 as being $172,192.59. Furniture and fixtures – $38,628.50.
The first board of Trustees was authorized on October 3, 1905, consisting of seven members of the lodge to be appointed by the Master. This was changed a year later to call for election for one year terms and seven years later changed to election for three year terms.
The first dues were set at $1.00 per month, payable quarterly and were changed on November 25, 1884 to 50c per month. From then until January 4, 1924, they fluctuated back and forth between 50c and 75c per quarter.
Original fees were set a $20.00 per degree for each of the three degrees. One interesting aspect is that for several years, the lodge charged a fee for conferring courtesy work on sojourners when asked to do so by their home lodge. The fee varied depending upon various factors but usually it was based upon the amount of the fees charged by the man’s home lodge, either the entire amount or a percentage of it. At the meeting of December 3, 1918, the lodge rescinded this policy and under ordinary conditions it was done as a courtesy at no expense, which it has been done since.
DATES OF IMPORTANCE
On December 4, 1906 – voted to hold a joint installation with Arizona Chapter No. 1 RAM and OES No. 5. The lodge opened at 4:30 pm December 27th, called off and held installation at 8:00 pm reconvened at 7:00pm on January 1, 1907 when it was called on and duly closed.
On December 29, 1908, public installation “opened at 3:00 pm, called off and reconvened at 8:00 pm when a large concourse of Masons and their Ladies had assembled. Following the installation, the assembly was then entertained with rehearsals and a selection of songs and beautiful music. After which, the members and their guests repaired to the banquet hall and enjoyed a bountiful repast of the good things, prepared by the committee. And, as the pot of incense glows with fervent heart, so our hearts glowed with gratitude to the beneficent author of our beings for these manifold blessings and comforts. The officers returned to the hall, the lodge was called on and duly closed.”
1912 was the first year that an installation was held other than on or near St. John’s Day. It was on December 10th that year and from then on there seems to be no set pattern – just sometime after the election.
October 5, 1915 was the first Past Master’s Night
January 2, 1917 – Secretary was empowered to purchase the first typewriter. It must have taken him a long time to learn to type because the first typed minutes were those for August 3, 1920.
The first proficiency certificate was presented to Master-Elect on December 17, 1929. It’s interesting to note that this installation was the first following the approval of the Arizona Ritual by the Grand Lodge. Until that time our ritual was that which had been brought from California.
The minutes of February 15, 1918 say “a very touching appeal from the building committee of 1st Christian Church of Silver Grove Kentucky, for a contribution of 10c each by ten ‘good looking Masons’ was read and 32 of the brethren flattered themselves by responding thereto.
On May 2, 1922 – the committee reported on the formation of a Masonic Board of Relief and that they recommended formation of a society on the plan of the Los Angeles Association. This was adopted but no mention was made as to what the plan was.
When the Masonic Temple was completed, it was the home to three Blue Lodges (Arizona Lodge No.2, Silver Trowel No. 29; and Montezuma Lodge No. 35); Phoenix York Rite Bodies; and Eastern Star Chapters: Phoenix Chapter No. 5, and Queen Esther Chapter No. 22. and Rainbow for Girls Phoenix Chapter No.1.
A unique situation occurred in connection with the installation of officers for the year 1931. Elected in December 1930 they were installed on January 20, 1931 by Grand Master Amos A Betts. The Master-elect, Roy Perry and the Treasurer George Conrad were ill and could not be present. Then, on April 28, 1931, the recently installed Grand Master C.V. Gulley installed the two brethren. The only time in our history that the officers for one year were installed by two Grand Masters.
On October 5, 1926 the lodge “voted a life membership to Brother David Swing to show their appreciation for the wonderful paintings he is placing on our walls.”
REGAINING THE TEMPLE
The Masonic Temple was lost during the early 1930’s to a group of Colorado investors and through the efforts of but a very few, principally Brother C.J. Smith Sr., who served as Treasurer of our Lodge for many years, and the then Grand Master, MW Brother Toler White, it was acquired by the Grand Lodge in 1941-42. Then, at a meeting on July 2, 1957 plans were begun to acquire ownership of the building by representatives of Arizona Lodge No.2, Silver Trowel Lodge No. 29, Montezuma Lodge No. 35, Sahuaro Lodge No.45, and Phoenix York Rite Bodies. Through the leadership of (now) MW Brother G. Melvin Reese, PGM (who served Arizona Lodge No.2 as Master in 1955 and as Secretary for approximately twenty years) and MW Brother C.V. “Cap” Gulley, (PM of Silver Trowel Lodge No. 29 and a PGM, their efforts culminated in the formation of the Masonic Temple Association of Phoenix, ending with the acquisition of the Temple and property from the Grand Lodge. The Phoenix Scottish Rite Bodies joined the other bodies in late 1959 and ultimately became a major force in the operation of the Temple for about 35 or 40 years.
The “100 Year History” of the First Baptist Church publication includes: The auditorium of the first building built at 3rd Avenue and Monroe was completed in 1906. In 1928, they failed in their attempt to acquire three lots to the north of the building and it was decided to tear down the existing building. According to their Bulletin of February 17, 1929, during the time the new church was under construction, several classed met in the Masonic Temple and other classes met at the YMCA, Grimshaw Chapel, and at “309 West Monroe” but did not identify the primary business at that location.
During WWII, Federal and Maricopa County offices, such as ration boards, OPA, and County Welfare Department, occupied the basement. During this time, the tenants could not use the dining room and the organizations ate in the Red Room with the kitchen being on the west end of the room.
The Phoenix Masonic Temple, which was built by Arizona Lodge No.2 in 1926 was deeded to the Colorado National Bank in 1936. The Grand Lodge of Arizona purchased the property from them on November 25, 1941.
January 1, 1944, the Lodge authorized the purchase of 50 “Masonic” Bibles to be presented to the newly raised Brothers. On April 25th of that year, it is recorded that the presentation was made “of the Bible on which the candidate was obligated” – a practice that continues to this day.
TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL?
During the first quarter of 1960, the Temple was bought from the Grand Lodge of Arizona by some of the tenants of the Temple at that time: Arizona Lodge No.2, Montezuma Lodge No. 35, Scottish Rite and York Rite Bodies. During the last half of the year, Sahuaro Lodge No.,45 also bought enough shares to give them equal ownership.
During the 1990′s many meetings were held regarding the sale of the Temple. It was finally resolved in 1996 not to sell. Ceiling fans were also installed in all of the lodge rooms in the later part of 1996. At the August 13, 1996 meeting, the shareholders voted to apply for Historical designation. The building was put on the City of Phoenix Historical list on September 10, 1996.
The Scottish Rite moved out of the Temple in 1997 and donated their shares of stock back to the Masonic Temple of Phoenix. In 1997, DMJM was haired to do a diligence study on the Temple. The temple was found to structurally sound.
Major refurbishing of the Temple was started during the summer of 1999. Deutsch & Associates was contracted to do the architectural drawings T.D.I. Construction company (Bill Dignan) was contracted to do the construction.
Grand Lodge of Arizona moved from their second floor offices to the newly refurbished offices on the fourth floor on July 2001.
Refurbishing of the Temple which included the Dining Room, elevator to the fourth floor, Fire Alarm system, handicap lift, Grand Lodge offices cost approximately $1,087,500.00. Arizona Lodge No 2 donated 90% and Phoenix York Rite donated 10% of the funds to accomplish the refurbishing. At the conclusion of the refurbishing, Arizona Lodge No2 owned 80% of the shares in the Temple and Phoenix York Rite owned 17%. During 2005, Montezuma Lodge # 35 landscaped the area on the West and North side of the building.
The first phase of an engraved brick fund raising project for the Masonic Temple Association was approved and implemented January 2002. The second phase was approved and is currently being implemented.