A Brief History of Lansdowne Lodge #711
Freemasonry can be traced by history and tradition to the remotest ages of the world, and it is upon this foundation that the structure was erected of which Lansdowne Lodge became one of the Living Stones.
Lansdowne Lodge No. 711, Free and Accepted Masons, was the outgrowth of many spontaneous hopes for a lodge in the Borough of Lansdowne. These hopes awaited an opportunity to crystalize into a definite expression. During the holidays of December 1920, brothers began to approach brother Masons until finally, in January 1921, the first meeting of the leaders in the movement was held. At the first meeting the following were present:
James T. Stewart – Fernwood Lodge #543
Walter Bowers – Bartram Lodge #298
A. Culver Boyd – Bartram Lodge #298
John B. Davis – Fernwood Lodge #543
Simeon J. Fedrick – Fernwood Lodge #543
Robert W. Gick – Bartram Lodge #298
Edwin B. Lewis – Fernwood Lodge #543
William H. Munch – Fernwood Lodge #543
Frank C. Nieweg – Columbia Lodge #91
E. G. Raymond Young – Bartram Lodge #298
The names of Masons who resided in and near Lansdowne were presented. These names were distributed among the members present with the intention of learning the general feeling as to the organization of a Lodge in the Borough.
A fortnight later, the ten gentlemen met in the office of the Burgess; they entered with zeal upon the undertaking. It was reported that at least sixty Masons in Lansdowne would join the movement. Eleven pioneers thereupon organized themselves into a committee with James T. Stewart, Chairman, and Frank C. Nieweg, Secretary, and issued a call for a general meeting of Lansdowne Masons to be held in the Auditorium of the Lansdowne High School, February 25th, 1921. The meeting of February 25th surprised everyone. Over a hundred Masons were present. Mr. Stewart, as Chairman, presided and explained the purpose of the meeting. He was followed by Burgess William A. McEwen, who itemized the possible cost of forming the Lodge, securing and furnishing the rooms, etc.
Dr. John B. Davis, who had interviewed Mr. John A. Perry, went at some length into the details of securing the Charter and methods to bring about affiliations into this new undertaking. Cards were signed by seventy-two Masons, stating their wish to become charter members. With this support, it was then decided to ratify the Committee’s personnel as the Committee to Organize a Masonic Lodge to be known as the Lansdowne Lodge. Mr. Stewart was named Chairman and Treasurer and Mr. Nieweg, Secretary of the Organization Committee. The charter membership fee was set at twenty-five dollars with an extra twenty dollar fee for those who joined from a jurisdiction outside of Pennsylvania. This fee was to go to the Grand Lodge for the Masonic Home at Elizabethtown.
The next ten weeks were productive. Certificates of resignation from nearby and distant Lodges, accompanied by payments of the charter-membership fees, swarmed into the hands of the Secretary. Filed and recorded, they grew beyond the hundred mark, until on May 20th, 1921, the day set for the final organization and for the signing of the application for the Charter, they totaled one hundred twenty-four.
The Organizing Committee that evening reported upon its work since the February meeting. Mr. Stewart, Chairman, announced that the Lodge had entered upon a five year lease of the second floor of the former Post Office Building on South Lansdowne Avenue at nine hundred dollars a year, beginning July 1st, 1921. The Committee would wait upon the Officers of the Grand Lodge Wednesday, June 1st, 1921, to petition for the Charter. Such progress had been made that now he wanted to call upon other charter members for help in construction and equipping the new hall.
Following the reports, the charter members elected unanimously Robert W. Gick, Worshipful Master; Dr. John B. Davis, Senior Warden; A. Culver Boyd, Junior Warden; James T. Stewart, Treasurer; and Frank C. Nieweg, Secretary.
On the evening of Wednesday, June 1st, 1921, the Committee attended the session of the Grand Lodge at the Masonic Temple, Philadelphia, Penna. At the close of the session they waited upon Right Worshipful Grand Master John S. Sell. After some questions relative to our ability to finance our undertaking, the Officers of the Grand Lodge granted the Charter to Lansdowne Lodge No. 711.
June, July, and August were busy months for the several sub-committees:
Building Committee – Walter Bowers, Chairman, A. McEwen and E.B. Lewis
Furniture Committee – William H. Munch, Chairman, Clement R. H. Cunningham and Clarence W. Brazer
Paraphernalia Committee – John B. Davis, Chairman, John P. H. Hallahan, Robert W. Gick, and Ralph Conard
Banquet Committee – E. G. Raymond Young, Chairman, Frank C. Nieweg, Simeon J. Fedrick, John B. Davis, Robert W. Gick, and A. Culver Boyd
All groups had their problems well in hand so that when the Lodge was finally constituted, September 8th, 1921, 11:00 A.M., the rooms were admirably furnished, beautifully carpeted and decorated. It was a fitting setting for the noble work done and that about to be undertaken. There were forty-eight different lodges represented in the forming of the new Lansdowne Lodge, thirty-eight lodges in Pennsylvania, one in Rhode Island, five New Jersey lodges, three New York lodges, and one Illinois lodge. The largest lodge number was from Lodge No. 298 with thirty-six members. Second largest was from Lodge No. 543 with twenty-two members.
On September 8th, 1921, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania held a Special Communication at the Masonic Hall, Lansdowne. Brother John S. Sell, Right Worshipful Grand Master, and other Grand Lodge Officers were present. The Grand Lodge opened in ample form at twelve o’clock five minutes. The Grand Secretary read the warrant granted by the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for the constitution of Lansdowne Lodge No. 711 to be held at Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. The Ceremony of Conservation having been concluded, all but Past Masters retired when Brother Robert W. Gick was duly installed Worshipful Master in ancient form. The brethren who had retired were readmitted when Brother John B. Davis was duly installed Senior Warden; Brother A. Culver Boyd, Junior Warden; James T. Stewart, Treasurer and Brother Frank C. Nieweg, Secretary, in due and ancient form. The Grand Master then constituted one hundred twenty-four brothers into a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. The Grand Master then proclaimed Lansdowne Lodge No. 711 duly constituted. The Grand Lodge closed in harmony at two o’clock fifteen minutes P.M. There were thirty visitors present at the constitution.
The following evening, September 9th, 1921, the first stated meeting was held with ninety-five members present. Ten visitors were present. There were thirty-four petitions for initiation and membership received. The Lodge was opened at 7:00 P.M. and closed at 10:45 P.M.
It was at the October stated meeting, 1921, that our by-laws were presented and read.
Initiation and membership fee was $120.00
Dues were $9.00 per year
There were seventeen stated and extra meetings held between September 9th, 1921 and December 22nd, 1921, so you can see they were very active.
Charles A. Simons was the first elected officer from the floor, December 9th, 1921, to Junior Warden. He was Senior Deacon at the constitution.
During the first twenty-five years, our Lodge grew steadily. Characteristic of our growth were periods of prosperity and depression. When the Lansdowne Bank and Trust Co. closed during the “crash” of 1929, at a stated meeting of the Lodge, pledges were taken from the members to loan money to the Lodge since its funds were lost in the bank closing. The average loans of $25.00 per member were never repaid.
For the 25th Anniversary Celebration, on September 13th, 1946, the Right Worshipful Grand Master, Richard A. Kern, accompanied by officers of the Grand Lodge, paid the Lodge an informal visitation and were received for the customary honors. Officers accompanying Brother Kern were Right Worshipful Grand Treasurer, J. Somers Smith; Senior Grand Warden, Edward F. Roberts; Grand Steward, Edmond W. Keely; Grand Pursuivant, John W. Borden; District Deputy Grand Master District No. 36, Gilbert Roy Hasler, and five other District Deputies.
The largest attendance at a stated meeting was on May 14th, 1948. Edmond C. Wray was Worshipful Master. There were 107 members and 98 visitors present for a total of 205. There were three Master Mason degrees conferred at the meeting.
On February 11th, 1949, Brother Alex Kerr, Worshipful Master, appointed a Special Building Committee consisting of Brother William C. Broughton, Chairman, Fred A. Werner, Henry J. Koedding, Robert L. Stone and Miller E. Hutton for the purpose of seeking information for the possible purchase of the building, in which we held our meeting since chartered, from the National Bank of Lansdowne.
On February 25th, 1949, a special meeting of Lansdowne Lodge No. 711 was held. There were 155 members present. A Master Masons Lodge was opened in ancient form at 8:00 o’clock 10 minutes P.M. It was on motion resolved that no offer be made for the building at this time. The following named brethren were appointed to serve with the committee appointed at the last stated meeting, February 11th, 1949, to study further the purchase of the building: George E. Hill, Jr., Laughlin F. McNeill, Junius S. Moulder, Howard R. Spangler, George P. Williams, Jr., George B. Steele and Dawson Dowell. The Lodge closed in harmony at 10:00 o’clock 50 minutes P.M.
At the stated meeting of April 8th, 1949, it was on motion resolved that the trustees be instructed to proceed with the purchase of this building at forty thousand ($40,000) dollars.
At the May 13th, 1949, stated meeting, it was on motion resolved that the trustees assume the authority to take care of all details in connection with the purchase of the building and the Building Commission was therefore dismissed with the thanks of the lodge.
At the stated meeting of October 10, 1952, it was on motion resolved that Lansdowne Lodge No. 711 join the Masonic School of Instruction at Chester, Pennsylvania.
Eleven years after purchasing the building, 1961, Arthur G. Miller, W.M., announced that the mortgage was paid in full.
At the stated meeting of March 9th, 1962, it was on motion resolved to remodel the building. The project was to be financed through donations and a building fund. Paul J. Gossin, Jr., W.M., instructed the trustees to send a letter to the members of the Lodge advising of the plans for the remodeling and the method of financing to be instituted. The work was begun in 1962, first on the banquet room, which was completed in the summer of that year. Work progressed with the remodeling of the Lodge Room which was completed in 1971, in accordance with the goal for the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration.
On October 24, 1971, Brother Carl. A. Sandberg, W.M., held an open house, inviting the membership and their families to view the remodeling of Lansdowne Lodge.
The climax of the first 50 years of Lansdowne Lodge No. 711 was the Fiftieth Anniversary/Annual Banquet which was held on December 11th, 1971, at Yeadon Borough Hall. At this time each member received a commemorative plate.
Today we can look back on 50 years of dedication to the principles of the brotherhood of man and stand in proud testimony to the wisdom and foresight of the dedicated brothers who created Lansdowne Lodge No. 711, Free and Accepted Masons.
Paul J. Gossin, Jr., P.M.