Preliminary ( History is being developed )
BY Fred C. Heeremans, P.M. Historian
To record the beginning of Community Lodge No. 744, Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania it is necessary to go back to the early nineteen-twenties when the Brookline Square Club was flourishing. This Club, a large and prosperous organization, had built in Brookline a fine Club House with a large porch, spacious lobby, dining room, a 1500 seat auditorium, bowling alleys swimming pool, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and a fine 18 hole golf course. The Clubhouse and swimming pool stood where the Haverford Township Senior High School now stands on Mill Road.
It was necessary to be a Master Mason in good standing to qualify for membership or a member of the family of a Master Mason and about three thousand local residents joined the Club. This Club became the center of much community life in Havertown for decades. It was the scene for many dances conducted by big band Leaders of the era. Among them were Les Brown, Xavier Cugart, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Charles Spivak, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, etc. It also held many Township activities such as square dances, Haverford High School graduations. Senior Class dances, dancing classes, and many other Township and community events.
It may have been the largest single event in Haverford Township history when the dedication of the Brookline Square Club was held on October 18, 1924. Five thousand people were on hand to hear Brother W. Freeiand Kendrick, Mayor of Philadelphia and nephew of Past Grand Master Kendrick deliver the keynote address. Beside him stood former Pennsylvania Governor William C. Sproul, of Chester, Ruth Malcomson, the newly crowned Miss America, and other dignitaries of the day.
The Brookline Square Club as such, unfortunately, disappeared from the scene as an organization almost as quickly as it had arrived, a victim of the Great Depression. The 104-acre Golf Course covering the area from Darby Road to Earlington Road and from Marthart Avenue to Mill Road was the first part of the property to be sold to developers and to the Havertord Township School District. The School District bought the Clubhouse in 1930 and it was used for many of the above mentioned activities until 1956 when the new Senior High School was opened.
In the early nineteen twenties, it was customary for a large number of the Square Club membership to take advantage of the excellent club facilities offered them. One could find large groups participating in various activities almost every evening. During one of these get-togethers, it was suggested by one of the members that inasmuch as there was such a large Masonic activity in the Brookline area, this community should have a Masonic Blue Lodge. This suggestion met with enthusiastic response and a meeting was called for the evening of December 8,1924 to further discuss this possibility. It was during this meeting that it was decided fifty members sign a petition for a new lodge to be presented to Grand Lodge for approval.
Naturally many meetings followed to make further plans, conditions and problems incident to the formation of a new lodge. When it was discovered that another Lodge was required to sponsor us and several of our neighboring lodges were afraid of the competition for membership did not wish to do so, the Charter Committee, at a meeting held on May 20, 1925 was delegated to visit the Grand Secretary in the Masonic Temple, in Philadelphia and ascertain from him the advisability of forming a lodge in the Brookline area. This committee returned with the information that a lodge could be chartered in the city of Philadelphia and meet within five miles of the city, if a Philadelphia Lodge would sponsor us.
Our petition was presented to University Lodge No. 610 where it was acted upon favorably. The petition was presented to Grand Lodge on December 4, 1925. Grand Lodge designated December 21, 1925 as the date for Constitution and installation services for our new Lodge - Community Lodge No 744. The name "Community Lodge" was selected as it was felt that it would serve the entire community.
R.W. Grand Master Samuel M. Goodyear and the other Grand Officers conducted the appropriate ceremonies and Community Lodge came into being. Forty-nine charter members were present and answered to the roll call.
The first meeting as a Constituted Lodge was held on December 28, 1925 in the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia. The fourth Monday of each month was chosen as the date for the stated meetings of the Lodge.
The first officers of the new Lodge were:
Worshipful Master Stewart B. Lingenfelter
Senior Warden Thomas R. Bell, Jr.
Junior Warden Stephen B. DeFarges
Treasurer Karl F. Otto
Secretary Charles T. Smith
Trustees Joseph S. Hebrew
Frank R. Baker
Arthur G. Hedden
In the first five years of Community Lodge, twelve members were admitted and seventy-five were initiated.
The rentals for the main Lodge Rooms of the Masonic Temple were rather expensive for our new Lodge with limited funds. Consequently most of the extra meetings were held in the small and hot Tower Rooms (now closed). One of the warrant members was heard to remark, "These rooms may be cheaper but in order to reach them it is necessary to out-climb a mountain goat".
From the time of constitution of the Lodge, the members were constantly looking for an appropriate meeting place in the Brookline area. It was not until mid 1927 that the Odd Fellows Hall in Manoa was found to be available. Physically this building was in very poor condition and considerable repair and renovation work was necessary. At last, Community Lodge was ready to move out of Philadelphia and, at least, into Delaware County. Our first meeting in the Odd Fellows Hall on West Chester Pike in Manoa was held on Monday evening, February 27, 1928. Community Lodge was to call this "Home" for the next thirty-five and one-half years.
The dark days of the Depression struck soon after we came to Manoa. Money being extra 'tight', very few could put up the modest initiation fee. Also, many of the members had difficulty paying their annual dues when there were so many needs for their hard-earned dollars. However, the loyal brothers gathered regularly at the stated meetings and rehearsed degrees even if there were no candidates. In fact lack of candidates and extra meetings gave the brethren more time to visit other lodges and promote lasting fraternal ties. Herman Richter, while Worshipful Naster, in 1934, made twenty-nine visits to other lodges, many of them with some of his other officers.
From 1930 to 1941, our membership dropped to a low of ninety-one members. During this eleven year period, fifteen were admitted and only nineteen initiated. In 1932 and 1940, there were no candidates on whom to confer degrees.
Loss in membership, naturally, meant a loss in income so money could be spent for only those things, which were absolutely necessary. The group of regulars determined that they would make up in spirit what they lacked in funds. Wives were asked to bake cakes, pies, and cookies, which were brought to the meetings along with sandwiches. Some members donated coffee, sugar, and cream, etc. Past Master Richter remarked, "When we have extra's show up, we cut the sandwiches in half".
A slight interruption in our regular meeting schedule occurred in late 1937 when, due to some architectural shortcomings in the building's foundations, cracks and a 'sinking condition' developed in the Odd Fellows Hall. Arrangements were quickly made with Cassia Lodge in Ardmore and our stated meetings for November and December 1937 were held in their meeting room. It so happened that our Past Master and Secretary for many years, Philip J. Buxton, received his Fellow Craft and Master Mason's degrees on those evenings. These were the only degrees conferred out of our own Lodge in our first fifty years.
The years from 1944 through 1956 saw more prosperous times and increased activity in Community Lodge. Our membership grew by 18 transfers and 319 new initiates to a total membership of 370. This averaged over 24 new initiates per year during this thirteen-year period. From 1957 to 1975 or the following eighteen years we averaged 12 new members by initiation and 3 by transfer into our Lodge.
Another dream of the Lodge was realized when the Cunningham-Shimer estate in Broomall at 2274 West Chester Pike was put up for auction on May 18,1960. Our Community Hall Association was the successful bidder at $35,000.00. The deed was signed on July 20, and settlement was made in August 1960. This property was zoned "Residential" and we had several meetings with Marple Township Zoning Board before we were granted an exception to use this property for our purposes as stated in our Charter.
It took considerable time for suggestions; discussions and planning as to how we could best convert this building to our use. Finally the proposal for renovating the building submitted by the Invine Construction of Narberth was accepted and a construction agreement was signed on October 2, 1962 for $60,000,00. A mortgage settlement with Colonial Federal Savings and Loan Co. was made on January 21, 1963 for $60,000.00 and Irvine Construction Co. commenced renovations on February 27,1963.
The last meetings held by Community Lodge in the Manoa Odd Fellows Hall were the Stated Meeting on June 20th and the Extra Meeting June 27,1963. Thus ended our Masonic history in Manoa after thirty-five and one-half years of rewarding fraternal activities and memories.
The first meeting in our new Lodge Room in Broomall was held on Thursday, September 12,1963. This was an extra meeting. The first Stated Meeting followed a week later, on Thursday, September 19th when Community Lodge was host to the Masters and Wardens of the Sixth Masonic District along with the District Deputy Grand Master. 137 Masons were in attendance that evening, 77 members of Community lodge No. 744 and 60 visitors.
Another "Red Letter Day" for Community Lodge quickly followed when, on Saturday afternoon November 2, 1963, our Lodge Hall was dedicated by Right Worshipful Grand Master, W. LeKoy McKinley and other Grand Lodge officers in a most impressive ceremony.
EXCERPTS FROM THE MINUTES OF GRAND LODGE
GRAND LODGE OF FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF PENNSYLVANIA
November 2, 1963 A. D. 5963 A. L.
W. LeRoy McKinley R.W. Grand Master
Earl F. Herold R.W. Deputy Grand Master
John K. Young R.W. Junior Grand Warden, acting R.W. Senior Grand Warden
Gerald H. Woerner District Deputy Grand Master acting R.W. Junior Grand Warden
Charles Reyner Past. D. D. G. M. as R.W. Grand Treasurer
Ashby Paul R.W. Grand Secretary
And the other officers in their respective places.
119 Brethren present
Grand Lodge opened in ample form at two o'clock five minutes P.M.
The ceremony of the Presentation of the Flag was performed.
Brother Ronald G. Woodworth, Chairman of the Building Committee, presented Frederick C. Heeremans, P.M., Architect, who informed Brother W. LeRoy McKinley R.W. Grand Master, that the Lodge Room was now completed. The R.W. Grand Master congratulated the Architect upon the successful completion of this new Masonic edifice.
The Dedication Ceremony was performed and the R.W. Grand Master dedicated the Lodge Room to Freemasonry, to Virtue and Science, to Universal Benevolence.
Brother Donald A Peterson, W.M. of Community Lodge No. 744, presented the officers of the Lodge and officers of nearby Lodges.
The Grand Lodge Officers were presented and Brother W. LeRoy McKinley, R.W. Grand Master addressed the brethren.
Grand Lodge closed in harmony at three o'clock 40 minutes P.M.
Ashby B. Paul
A Special Meeting of Community Lodge was held on Saturday afternoon at four o'clock November 8, 1975.
42 Members were present and 33 Visitors
The purpose of this special meeting was to receive an informal visitation of Grand Lodge to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this Lodge, constituted on the 21st day December 1925 A. D. 5925 A.L
Brother Joseph E. Trate R.W. Grand Junior Warden, Acting R.W. Grand was accompanied by Officers of the Grand Lodge as follows,
Charles B. Mauch Grand Chaplain
Harry E. Heatherby Senior Grand Deacon
Maurice A, Singer As Grand Marshall
Ralph B. Rogers, .Jr. Grand Sword Bearer
Edward 0. Weiser District Deputy Grand Master District No. 8
H. Dean Smith District Deputy Grand Master District No. 36
David J, Godshall District Deputy Grand Master District No. 6
James W. Fry Past District Deputy Grand Master District "A"
Gerald H. Woerner Past District Deputy Grand Master District No. 6
John B. Cottrel Jr. Past District Deputy Grand Master District No. 36
W. Harry Shaw Jr. Instructor of Ritualistic Work
Brother Trate, Acting R.W. Grand Master, congratulated the Lodge on its growth and progress over the past fifty years and was pleased to present the Lodge with the following items which were consigned to the Lodge archives for future generations.
(1) Happenings of Interest - Spanning 50 Years.
(2) Photocopy of the Warrant of Community Lodge No. 744 as recorded in the Book of Warrants.
(3) Photocopy of the Petition Praying that a Warrant be granted to form Community Lodge No. 744
(4) Photocopy of the Special Meeting, December 21 A. D. 1925, A. L. 5825, constituting Community
Lodge No. 744, as Recorded in the Office of the Grand Secretary.
A special booklet was printed and distributed to commemorate this anniversary.
A banquet was held at 7 P.M. at the Media Motor Inn to celebrate this event. Cost $845.33
On December 27,1998, Wayne Lodge No. 581 merged with Thomson Lodge No. 340 of Paoli, Pa. and sold their building on Conestoga Road, Wayne. In their Lodge Hall they had installed very fine decorative wooden columns on the east and west walls which had originally been installed in their former home on Wayne Ave near Lancaster Pike next to the Wayne Fire Station. The Past Masters and officers of Wayne Lodge did not want to leave these pillars in the building. They wanted to see them installed in another Masonic Lodge Hall, so they graciously donated them to Community Lodge for our help in their merger, along with other items such as refrigerators, benches, tables, etc. Through the efforts, primarily of Brothers Samuel Pompeo P.M. and Jesse Cotter, these items were transferred to Community Lodge and installed during the spring and summer of 1999, greatly enhancing the appearance of our Lodge Hall for our 75th Anniversary in 2000 A.D.
Significant notes made from Minutes of meetings of Community Lodge No. 744
04-21-83 - After the Stated Meeting, the Burning of Mortgage (Colonial Federal Savings and Loan) Ceremony was performed
in the Banquet Hall.
04-21-88 - Edict from Grand Lodge - Digest of Decisions.
" Glasses and Hearing Aids may be worn when conferring degrees".
05-21-91 - Serious discussions for merger of Community Lodge No.744 and Unity Lodge No.719.
06-20-91 - Plans for addition on side of building (south) for storage on first floor.
Secretary's office, library and conference room on second floor.
09-19-91 - Grand lodge dues increased, from 8 dollars to 12 dollars per year effective 1-1-92.
10-17-91 - Merger with Unity Lodge approved by Grand Lodge effective 12-27-91.
12-27-91 - Unity lodge No719 ( Constituted October 12, 1922 ), MERGED with Community Lodge resulting in
10-15-92 - Past Masters Night, 33 Past Masters present from 744 and 719
01-20-94 - Stated Meeting cancelled due to extreme weather conditions. Icy streets and temperatures -5 degrees F. Wind
chill -10 to -20 degrees F. First time in the history of the Lodge that a stated meeting had been cancelled.
02-17-94 - Communication from R.W.G.M. that due to the special "Friend to Friend Program" all Pennsylvania Lodges
would hold Stated Meetings in July and August in 1994.
05-21-94 - Permission granted by R.W.G.M. Hohenshildt to hold stated meeting on Saturday, 5-21-94 in Egyptian Hall in
the Masonic Temple, Philadelphia at I P.M. instead of 5-19-94. At this meeting the Fellowcraft degree was
conferred on Brother Ian Scott McDowell by W.M. Roger N. Fey.
10-22-94 - The Community Hall Association was legally recorded, and registered under the Laws of Pennsylvania.
11-17-94 - Legal termination of the Community Hall Association. A Hall and Property Committee was formed to be
responsible for all such business.
09-21-95 - Brother Marvin A, Cunnungham, D.D.G.M. visited the Lodge this evening and informed us that this was probably
his last visit as D.D.G.M. as he will probably be elected Right Worshipful Junior Grand Warden in Grand Lodge in
06-4-97 - Current By-Laws approved by Grand Lodge.
A communication was received from Grand Lodge informing us of the receipt of $1,950,000.00 for use of the
Masonic Home at Elizabethtown from the estate of Brother George S. Derry, a former member of
Community Lodge NO. 744 who had died in Florida.
Stated meetings of Community Lodge, when constituted on 12-21-25, were set as the 4th Monday.
09-21-28 Changed to the 3rd Friday.
10-18-34 Changed to the 4th Thursday.
Changed to the 3rd Thursday.
??-06-40 - Informal visitation of R.W.G.M. Beehm and R.W.P.G.W Kern.
New addition, first and second floor
1999 - New paneling and floor in the Banquet Hall.
1998 - Sewer line hookup
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