Worthington News

Masons trying to sell or lease historic Lodge

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Step into the meeting room on the second floor of Worthington's Masonic Lodge and you could imagine James Kilbourne or Chester Griswold chatting about the news of the day.

Even in a city that prides itself on preserving and honoring the past, the 1820s-built meeting room seems more untouched by modern ways than any room in town.

Perhaps it's because Freemasons do not generally open their meeting rooms to the public, or maybe it's because the original Masonic Lodge has been infrequently used even by the Masons since 1956.

Regardless, the old room has maintained its air of solemn grandness.

The canopies over the "stations" are authentic to the period, as is the altar, the fireplace and the antique wooden chairs that line the walls.

Large wall hangings spell out, in the somewhat mysterious language of Masonry, the symbols and allegories associated with how several generations of Worthington men who have risen in degrees through the mastery of life, Masonic-style.

Now, of course, that piece of Worthington history is for sale because the New England Lodge can't afford, in the long run, to keep operating the historic Lodge and the adjoining 1956 "modern" Lodge building.

Both are on High Street in downtown Worthington, just south of East New England Avenue.

From 1956 until December 2012, both buildings were maintained by the Grand Lodge of Ohio, which had its headquarters on the first floor of the new building; it allowed the New England Lodge to meet on the second floor and maintained the old Lodge building as a museum.

Finances forced the state headquarters to move to offices in Springfield. According to a 1955 agreement, the deed was then returned to the New England Lodge.

The Masonic memorabilia that once filled cases on the first floor of the building have been removed. The floors have been refinished and the walls repaired.

The second-floor meeting room remains much the same as it was when it was built by Worthington settlers.

Kilbourne and the Scioto Co. brought with them a charter from the Grand Lodge of Connecticut when they arrived to start a new town here in 1803. They met in members' homes until they built, for $3,000, the Masonic Temple.

Records show meetings being held there by 1821.

The land was donated, the building designed and construction supervised by John Snow. Much of the work was done by the Masons.

Snow went on to serve the Masonic order as grand master of Ohio.

Richard Snow, great-great grandson of John Snow, still is a member of Worthington's New England Lodge and served as its worshipful master in 1988.

The New England Lodge has continued to meet in the 1820s Lodge room at least once a year.

Thus, it could claim to be the oldest Masonic Lodge in continuous use west of the Allegheny Mountains.

More often, the Worthington-based Masons meet in a second-floor Lodge room in the 1956 building. They meet the first Tuesday of each month for a business session, an educational program and to share knowledge with each other.

The room is like a small auditorium, with two rows of red-velvet-lined chairs along the walls and a small stage.

On the first floor of that building are the offices and meeting rooms once occupied by the state organization. There are seven or eight offices, all with modular walls for reconfiguration.

The basement has a full, commercial-size kitchen and dining room. Masons and related groups that meet in the Lodge often also share meals there.

The buildings are for sale or lease. Masons such as Mike Clevenger hope someone will make an offer that would allow the New England Lodge to continue to meet and to continue the long, strong history of Freemasonry in Worthington.

"There is so much history and heritage here," he said. "We don't want to leave it."

What they have in mind is not unusual. Small towns throughout Ohio have Masonic Lodges that meet in buildings they share with businesses or other nonprofit organizations, he said.

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