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History of Lake Harriet Lodge #277

Our Lodge has deep roots in the community and the state, therefore it is reasonable to provide some context from the days prior to our chartering in 1913 that will help you understand where we came from and why.

The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Minnesota was organized in 1853 by Lodges in St. Anthony (not yet Minneapolis), St. Paul, and Stillwater.

Today an older Grand Lodge, or 'jurisdiction', the Grand Lodge of Minnesota itself was a product of several frontier lodges that states like Wisconsin and Illinois established here.  All recognized grand lodges can trace their ancestry in this manner back to the three original grand lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland, and these in turn from what are called "lodges of antiquity", or lodges that are so old that no records still exist that declare exactly when they were founded.  The Grand Lodge of Minnesota is a peer member of the Conference of Grand Masters in North America, thus recognized by legitimate freemasonry worldwide, and enjoys friendly and reciprocal relationships with the many other long-established grand lodges throughout the world.  The Grand Lodge of Minnesota website contains links to these peer grand lodges if you wish more information. 

The Grand Lodge of Minnesota is the oldest corporation in the state, and pre-dates the admission of Minnesota as the 32nd state of the Union by five years.  

The City of Minneapolis itself was incorporated in 1867.  The City grew apace, spreading quickly from the milling district of St. Anthony Falls, as wide avenues were platted toward the south, eventually to stretch into the swampy land between Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun and along the Minnehaha Creek.  Long before the graceful homes of Linden Hills and Morningside were built, this area was a favorite hunting ground for the Sioux and the Ojibwa Indians.

Eventually, the first country road passed through the Lake Harriet area to connect Hennepin Avenue with Minnetonka and became a well-traveled thoroughfare. The popular, inexpensive and privately-held Twin City Line streetcar company ran nearby.  Consequently, the Lake Harriet District became a way station, a playground and recreation area with band concerts, picnic grounds, and other facilities.

It was here in the Lake Harriet Commercial Club Building, a half mile to the north and east of the present day lodge hall, where Lake Harriet Lodge #277 Ancient Free & Accepted Masons was organized and received its Charter on January 23, 1913.  The Lodge was constituted March 4, 1913. Sponsored by Minnehaha Lodge #165, their Past Master Worshipful Bert L. Smith presided in the East for the first degree series.

Lake Harriet Lodge considered building a permanent home in that area and actually bought a lot across from the Lake Harriet Commercial Club Building. But after long and serious committee meetings, twelve years later, they decided to buy their existing leased space, the Lake Harriet Commercial Club Building on 42nd and Upton. This building only required a few changes and the Lodge was helped by the Lake Harriet Order of the Eastern Star #202, who furnished carpets, window drapes and a curtain for the stage. The Chapter of Royal Arch Masons furnished an Altar.

A special Meeting was held November 13, 1944 when the original Mortgage was paid off and burned in celebration. The Lodge met in these facilities for many years. 

Eventually the building showed the effects of wear, needing a new heating plant.  The streetcar line closed in favor of a bus system and the post-war expansion of the use of automobiles.  There was still no off street parking at this 'neighborhood' lodge at a time when the state requirement that a man join the most geographically local lodge to his home had been lifted; parking was becoming more important as our membership came from increasing distance around the metro area.  Finally, the trigger for a move came because without an elevator, the three flights of stairs began to take a toll. These factors caused the Lodge to look for a newer building.

They found a new site which had been variously used as a Paint Store, an Auto Parts Store and an Office Building, situated in an attractive nearby commercial area along France Avenue.

The Lake Harriet Lodge Company, which had been duly organized as a non-profit corporation under and by virtue of the Laws of the State of Minnesota, October 29, 1923, operates as a subsidiary and title holding organization of the Lodge. The purpose of this corporation was that of Owning, Furnishing, and providing property for the use of the Lodge. According to the Minutes of the Lodge Company, on March 30, 1971, Director Van Doren moved that the Lodge Company be authorized to purchase the building at 4519 France Avenue South for $95,000 and obtain a mortgage not to exceed $40,000 and to sign such contracts as necessary to remodel it into a suitable Lodge Hall.

Director Van Doren also moved that the Lodge Company be authorized to complete the sale of the building at 2718-20 West 43rd Street to Ralph Ditzler for $45,000 or more, both subject to approval of the Grand Lodge and the members of Lake Harriet Lodge.

The Minutes of September 20, 1971 showed that Lake Harriet Lodge #277 held its first stated communication in the new building on this date at 7:45 PM with the following officers in their stations: Lloyd Bergren W.M., Ben Bruns S.W., Larry Heller J.W., Bob McClennon S.D., Charles Calkins J.D., Knut Horneland Secretary, Bud Steinhilber Treasurer, Walter Johnson Tiler, Carl Malborg Chaplain.

The First Degree conferred in the new building was on October 4, 1971 when Ronald Todd Emerson and Donald Arthur Anderson were initiated as the youngest Entered Apprentices. Both candidates received their Master Mason Degree on November 8, 1971. It is interesting to note that Ronald Emerson was raised by his father Waldo Emerson who became Master of the Lodge in 1976.

The building is now known as the Lake Harriet Masonic Center and is managed by the Lake Harriet Lodge Company. The Center is home for Lake Harriet Lodge #277. Previous tenants have included Bloomington Lodge #340, Sunlight Lodge #323, Ark Lodge #176 and Edina Lodge #343, the latter of these, Edina Lodge, merged with Lake Harriet Lodge in 1995. In another merger, Joppa Lodge #300 merged with Lake Harriet in 2002. The Lodge Company actively seeks other lodges and groups that need an attractive, low-cost place for their meetings and office space.

Lake Harriet is also joined in the building by Lake Harriet Chapter O.E.S. #202; Bethel #1 of the International Order of Job's Daughters, which benefits girls, occasional meetings of the local Boy Scouts Leadership team, and chapters of the Social Order of the Beauceant, a Royal Arch auxiliary; Amaranth, a men's and women's social group; and Daughters of the Nile, a Shrine auxiliary.

The lodge hall is available for community organizations. We do not charge a fee for youth organizations. The first Saturday of the month is Lake Harriet Lodge's well-attended Burger Day, a good time to stop by for an impromptu meeting or to see the facility from 11AM to 1PM.

Lake Harriet Lodge has been commended by Dr. Raymond Smith, the Superintendent of Edina Schools, for its part in furnishing Glucometers for the Local Schools to aid diabetic students in controlling their blood sugars. Also for furnishing materials and a teaching program for the Health Associates of each school to learn the procedures of testing. The Lodge is actively seeking new ways in which to be of service to the community. We host an annual blood drive, contribute to VEAP, the local food shelf, and participate in the award of several large scholarships to college-bound area youth each year. We look forward to considering new charitable projects as they are brought to our attention.

As an example of the kind of charitable effort Masons can do when they set their mind to a project, in 2001, the lodge responded to a terrible accident with a major charitable fundraiser, keeping a family afloat when they needed us most. A young tree-trimmer, not a Mason, was high in the branches of a tree on St. Andrews Avenue in Edina, when he slipped, almost severing his leg with a quick stroke of his chainsaw. Without insurance and without a well-off family network to which to turn, the young family was devastated. Members of the lodge rallied, determined to raffle off a new luxury pick-up truck with the proceeds to go to the family. The OES and Job's Daughters ran bake sales and collected food and clothing. After expenses, almost $50,000 was raised by hundreds of members selling tickets and even showing the truck on weekends at Cabela's in Owatonna and the Sturgis motorcycle rally. This allowed a tax-free charitable gift to the family, saving their home, their business, and their future. The family won, ten citizens who bought raffle tickets won, and the lodge learned a pointed lesson about the power of good men working together on a common task.

In 2002 on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, lodge member Wor. Bro. Robert Bayers organized the "9-11 Tribute" concert at the Lake Harriet Band Shell. This annual event has grown to become a citywide attraction, now boasting an all volunteer 60-piece orchestra and 70-voice chorus each year. There has been a wonderful outpouring of support from the entire community. Participation from several Masonic groups include: Heroes of '76 flag presentation, Zuhrah Shrine Pipes and Drums and Lake Harriet #277 who host the rehearsals. Please visit www.our911tribute.com for more information.

In 2004 lodge officers surprised some of the veteran members with the plan to host an outdoor degree. That in itself is nothing new to Masonry, as a number of lodges host degrees or meetings outside all summer long. However, Lake Harriet's plan was to hold a Third Degree on the grounds of Lakewood Cemetery in busy Minneapolis. With eight Tylers guarding the approaches on all four sides of the appointed area, we were able to carry off the event flawlessly in front of some 200 candidates and guests. Several photos of this impressive event are shown on the main page of this website.

Our 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2013, with an exciting, comprehensive renovation of the Lodge Hall, an exploration of events of historical importance from our archives, and a five-star banquet at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. We are confident that the renovations will prove popular with members and our many guests. Our new Club Room is reminiscent of the old club room at our original temple, complete with leather upholstered couches and chairs, book shelves housing our extensive Masonic library, a bar, pool table, and television for the relaxation and use of the brethren. Our dining room was also renovated into a classier style suitable for all kinds of banquets.

In conjuction with the Centennial celebration, our Lodge Education Officer and Lodge Historian, James Maertens, published a history of Lake Harriet Lodge titled 100 Years of Brotherhood: The Centennial History of Lake Harriet Lodge which is available on Amazon HERE. You can also purchase a copy from the Lodge Secretary for $33 plus shipping.  Just call or email the Secretary.

Each year, Lake Harriet welcomes new members to a healthy and growing lodge. Each year, new officers step up to take on leadership roles. The future looks bright for our lodge stepping into its second century -- a strong and beneficial part of Southwest Minneapolis, and a leading lodge in Minnesota.

(To Be Continued)

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