Tuesday, May 24, 2022

‘A chunk of Masonic history’

Joseph Fagan photo
Ionic capital rescued from the ruins of the former Masonic Hall in Orange, New Jersey last month by Mr. Joseph Fagan, a local historian.

A friend in New Jersey alerted me yesterday to a local news item concerning the destruction of an old Masonic temple in the City of Orange Township.

What he had seen was a Facebook post from Mr. Joseph Fagan, a historian and author who specializes in the Oranges of Jersey, and who told of a fire that destroyed the 135-year-old building on April 19. From there I was able to find Fagan’s news story published the day after the fire on Tap into West Orange
a website for local community journalism. Do read the story for its historical details on the building’s construction.

Located at 235 Main Street in Orange, the nineteenth century brick and terra cotta beauty ceased to be a Masonic temple long ago, and was a mixed use property in its final incarnation, with various retail tenants in business there. The blaze devoured the building’s interior before firefighters from several towns extinguished it. The facade remained standing, but had to be demolished later.

Joseph Fagan photo

The cornerstone was laid June 24, 1886, and the temple was dedicated November 16, 1887, according to One Hundred Years of Masonry in the Oranges, 1809-1909 by 
Bro. G. Howlett Davis. (Imagine a time when Freemasons authored books about their lodges and the local Masonic scene!) The temple was home to both Union Lodge 11 and Corinthian Lodge 57.

Joseph Fagan photo
Commemorative medal
from the dedication ceremony.

I won’t delve deeply into the details, but eventually—possibly the 1970s—these lodges, joined by Germania Lodge 128 in Newark, would amalgamate and form Germania-Corinthian-Union Lodge 11, and would acquire a former National Grange hall a few towns away in Livingston. About twenty years ago, this lodge merged with Livingston-West Orange Lodge 287, which was located a few miles to the west, and they carry on today as Livingston Lodge 11.

Anyway, Mr. Fagan was able to salvage one architectural embellishment from the rubbish of the temple on Main Street—one that is very recognizable to the initiated eye: a capital of an Ionic column. He guesses it weighs about a hundred pounds.

Union Lodge originally was numbered 21 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, having been chartered November 10, 1809. It was a daughter lodge of St. John’s 2 in Newark, just as, I suppose, the City of Orange itself was a breakaway municipality of Newark. When the Grand Lodge reorganized during the 1840s, after the Anti-Masonry craze fizzled, its few surviving lodges were renumbered; Union was assigned 11 (and St. John’s became No. 1).

Historical photo courtesy Joseph Fagan

Corinthian 57 was set to labor Under Dispensation in 1861 at a time the Masonic Order in New Jersey was flourishing. Germania Lodge 128 was given its charter in 1872, a German-language lodge that had spun off Diogenes 22 in Newark.

Maybe Mr. Fagan would donate the piece for display at Livingston 11 or the Museum of Masonic Culture in Trenton.

Here are photos from Bro. Davis’ book:

When the Masonic Hall opened, the post office occupied the ground floor.

The lodge room in the new building.

At the cornerstone ceremony in 1886.

Bro. G. Howlett Davis was raised
in Union Lodge 11 on May 28, 1903.

No comments: