Freemasons St. David's Lodge No. 302 (St. Thomas)

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Freemasons St. David's Lodge No. 302 (St. Thomas)

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John E. Smith, the Worshipful Master, in 1868, of St. Thomas lodge No. 44, was one of the leading citizens of St. Thomas and who by his enterprise and capital, did much for the development of the town's interests. In 1873-1874, he built a block of stores between John Street and the London and Port Stanley Railway Property. This block was one of the first brick buildings of any consequence on Talbot Street east of Metcalfe Street. It was constructed with the express intention that on the third or top floor would be a Masonic lodge room. This did in fact become a reality in 1874 when St. David's Lodge, which had held its first few meetings over a little tinsmith's shop that stood two doors west of the London and Port Stanley Railway, moved into lavish new quarters in the John E. Smith building. The lodge hall was formally dedicated by the Grand Master, M.W. Bro. William Mercer Wilson on September 1, 1874. Dispensation from Grand Lodge to form the new lodge had been granted on August 4, 1873. St. David's Lodge took its name from the ward of the town in which it was situated.
St. David's Lodge was not formed in the more customary manner, that is, members from a local lodge breaking away to form a smaller lodge, with perhaps a younger membership. Because of the sudden appearance of the railways in the town and the various persons which accompanied them, naturally several masons were among the newcomers. It is therefore quite obvious when viewed in this light why St. David's came into being. It must, however, be noted that the brethren who were instrumental in the formative stages of this lodge were affiliated members of St. Thomas Lodge No. 44, the only other lodge in St. Thomas.
On June 24, 1886, St. David's Lodge moved to the Welding Block, situated on the north side of Talbot Street about midway between Horton and Manitoba Streets. In 1892, another move took the lodge to the Acacia Block, on the south side of Talbot Street opposite John Street. Their stay in this location was short-lived, for only six months later on April 23, 1893, they were burned out (there were strong suspicions the building was set on fire by a tenant occupying offices below the lodge room). All the lodge furniture, regalia and equipment were lost. The members then, for a few months, met in the McLarty Block on Talbot Street opposite Metcalfe Street. On October 18, 1894, they moved above the new Duncombe Opera House building on Talbot Street opposite Southwick Street.
Soon after the turn of the century as both were growing at a rapid pace, the two St. Thomas lodges began to think of more up-to-date and large accomodations and better banquet facilities. When the Engineers' were planning their imposing block in the middle of the city next to City Hall, they invited the Masonic Lodges and their concordant bodies to be a part. They all accepted and have met there ever since. The third floor of the Engineers' Building was designed for Masonic purposes with a large and imposing lodge room that was outfitted with beautiful walnut furniture and boardroom rugs. It was considered among the finest in the province. The lodge rooms were dedicated on December 7, 1909.
The period following the First Great War was a progressive era. Membership increased at a rapid rate. This prosperity created a desire among the Masonic Craft to own their own home. After lengthy negotiations and plans for financing, etc., the Locomotive Engineers' building was purchased by the St. Thomas Masonic Temple Association Limited on August 6, 1925.
On the evening of January 28, 1951, fire was discovered at the rear of McPhillips Furniture Store, immediately below the auditorium. At first it was not considered serious, but once it broke through into the hallways, the building was demolished. Immediately, committees were appointed, and temporary quarters established over the old Public Utilities Office, 474 Talbot Street. The old building was rebuilt. The new Masonic Temple was dedicated on May 1, 1953, and it is there that they have since met.
The membership of St. David's Lodge reached a peak of 530 Masons in 1966 and was at that time one of the large lodges in the province. Unfortunately since that date the numbers have fallen, and as of 1998, the membership stood at about 300.


St. Thomas

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