(Image: Maria Wallin; abandoned Masonic Lodge buildings, temples and halls)
We’ve all heard of freemasonry. Some of us may even be Freemasons ourselves. A discrete fraternal organisation that emerged from the stonemasons’ guilds of the 14th century (and maintained their three medieval grades, or degrees: Apprentice, Journeyman/Fellow and Master Mason), the secret society exists in various forms worldwide, and is organised locally through a network of Masonic Lodges.
Despite purported links to the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, and the so-called New World Order of conspiracy theory acclaim, Freemasonry is known to be an inclusive craft with a heavy emphasis on community and charitable giving. Yet secretive masonic rites and rituals have historically made them – and other groups – a target of religious intolerance. And as with abandoned churches and other religious structures, many Lodge buildings have fallen derelict over time.
This article examines a series of abandoned Masonic Lodges, temples and other forgotten places associated with Freemasonry. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, The Rough Ashlar points out that ‘Lodge’ refers to a body of masons while a masonic temple represents Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. We’ll use both terms below.
Derelict Hammond Masonic Temple, Indiana (Demolished)
Once occupying a prominent spot at 119 South Cypress Street in Hammond, Louisiana, this abandoned masonic temple has now sadly been torn down. Though the venue housed a dance studio in its later years, a space was still reserved on an upper floor for local Freemasons to meet. But over the years the building changed considerably, losing much of its grandeur in the process. Masonic symbols and crests that once adorned the parapet and brick pilasters were eventually lost, and the entire structure was finally demolished in June 2009. These photographs reveal a vast auditorium lying in utter ruin and decay. The ceiling has caved in, seats lie broken amid a scene of utter devastation, and crumbling masonry (no pun intended) lies strewn across the floor. Amid the rubble are the broken Masonic symbols that once defined its purpose. It’s understood the abandoned Hammond Masonic Temple had sat empty since the 1990s. It was reportedly cleared to make way for a new school.
Abandoned Masonic School for Boys, England
Despite the haunting serenity of these photographs, the Royal Masonic School for Boys casts a grand yet derelict shadow of its former self. Back in the late 18th century, a number of charities were established to help cloth and educate the children of struggling Freemasons, and by 1903 a new independent school was opened in Hertfordshire, southern England. Known as the Royal Masonic School for Boys (the girls’ school remains open in nearby Rickmansworth), it would remain in use for another seven decades. By 1939 had 800 pupils in its classrooms.
But numbers declined during the ’70s and the institution closed in 1977. The abandoned Masonic School was briefly used as a university until the buildings fell into total disrepair. Derelict and left to the mercy of vandals, they’re now reportedly being converted into luxury homes. Over the years the abandoned Masonic School cemented its place in the popular culture, appearing in films like Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and many more TV shows.
Abandoned Masonic Temple
These eerie scenes inside an abandoned masonic temple were photographed by urban explorer Dan Raven. The grand room is in a poor state of disrepair and the three Gothic chairs positioned behind the oak lectern only add to the atmosphere of gloom and desolation. Behind the dusty Mason & Hamlin organ is a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s faded masterwork The Last Supper, though most forms of freemasonry accept initiates from across the religious spectrum.
Derelict Newburgh Masonic Temple in Cleveland, Ohio
(Images: Maria Wallin)
There’s an austere beauty to this notable landmark in the Miles Park neighbourhood of Cleveland, Ohio. The now abandoned Newburgh Masonic Temple was designed by Cleveland architect William J. Carter and cost an estimated $65,000. Situated at 8414 Broadway, the inaugural meeting of local Freemasons took place on May 31, 1917, two months after the establishing of Ashlar Lodge No. 639. But by the spring of 1969, spiralling maintenance and operating costs combined with a lack of secure parking were causing problems for the grand establishment. Ashlar was eventually merged with the Theodore Breck Lodge No. 714 and by 1978 their landmark Newburgh Masonic Temple was put up for sale. The building was reportedly transferred to a religious organisation called the Southern Travelers but is understood to have been empty for several years now. As these photographs reveal, the abandoned Masonic Temple is a sorry sight today, wonderfully grand yet utterly derelict.
Abandoned Masonic Hall in Wellington, New South Wales
This handsome period building, standing proud above the streets of Wellington, New South Wales, was photographed in April 2013. Sadly, this may have been one of the last images taken of the crumbling masonic hall. Clearly derelict for some time, the signboards hanging from the steel fencing declare the location to be a construction site. One sign ominously states: Danger: demolition work in progress. This surely does not bode well for the ruin, which still sports the symbolic Square and Compasses above its main entrance, in this small Australian town of 4,540 people.
Order of the Eastern Star Abandoned Masonic Meeting House, Virginia
(Images: Among The Ruin)
There’s a strangely feel to this rotting wooden meeting house in Virginia – at least on the outside. Inside, however, the atmosphere is far more eerie. Once a meeting house of the Order of the Eastern Star (a masonic-affiliated group open to both men and women), the insides are desperately in need of some TLC, with little more than an abandoned American flag and a row of utilitarian wooden benches for comfort. Crafted of timber, the Freemasons’ meeting house has the feel of a court room, with its three masonic chairs – less grand than the antique examples pictured above – slightly elevated and presiding over the empty room. It’s understood that this OES chapter house dates back to the 19th century and has been closed since the 1970s.
Former Lodge Heart of Midlothian No.832, Edinburgh
(Image: via Google Street View)
Sandwiched between a tenement block and a derelict warehouse, the neat stone building at 27 Murieston Crescent, Edinburgh, was for more than 100 years the home of Lodge Heart of Midlothian No 832. The Lodge itself is still going strong, having moved to nearby Roseburn Gardens. Its grand old stone building, which dates back to 1904, is now home to a local dance studio. Its nice to see that the abandoned Masonic Lodge meeting hall has been repurposed, though the structure alongside it has clearly seen better days. Find out more about the history of Lodge Heart of Midlothian No 832 here.
Monument to Destroyed St John’s Lodge in Newstead, Scottish Borders
This plaque, bearing the Square and Compasses symbol, commemorates an abandoned Masonic Lodge in the village of Newstead, Scottish Borders. Located at the end of St John’s Wynd, the plaque has been set into the demolished stone building’s last surviving wall fragment. The plaque, which reads “Ludge of Melros St. John”, came about after the local Masonic Lodge moved into rooms at Melrose in 1743. It moved again in 1791 to a premises on the High Street, Melrose, and is reputed to be one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in Scotland.
Abandoned Masonic Meeting Hall in Danville, Illinois
(Image: Randy von Liski)
Skipping back across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, small-town America (as well as not-so-small cities) is home to numerous abandoned Masonic Lodges that have either moved on to new premises or been deserted entirely. The forlorn brick structure above stands at the corner of N. Jackson and E. North Streets in the city of Danville, Illinois, seat of Vermilion County. The photographer writes: “Harold’s tavern occupies the building on the right, and the “F & AM PHA” sign hanging off the corner of the building on the right indicates the structure was once used as a meeting place of the Prince Hall Affiliated Free & Accepted Masons.”
Abandoned Masonic Lodge Building in Barstow, Texas
(Image: Nicolas Henderson)
Another derelict Lodge building, this time a lonely roadside structure in Barstow, Texas. Photographer Nicolas Henderson has documented a number of Masonic Lodges in Texas and elsewhere, as we’ll see below. The distinctive Square and Compasses immediately betrays the one-time use of the ruin above, though the state of the building suggests that it’s a long time since the secretive rites and rituals of Freemasonry unfolded within.
Derelict Lodge in Fort Worth, Texas
(Image: Nicolas Henderson)
Moving on to Fort Worth, and this boarded-up brick building could have been anything, and though architecturally pleasing, appears to be somewhat anonymous. But take a closer look and you’ll notice the unmistakable symbolism of Freemasonry adorning the parapet. Glancing through the side windows, however, reveals the abandoned Masonic meeting hall to be missing its roof.
1926 Grand Masonic Lodge, Guthrie, Oklahoma
The town of Guthrie, Oklahoma still has a thriving Masonic Lodge that gathers at a modernist building not far from the original meeting hall. But as Nicolas Henderson points out, it’s the old structure that’s far more eerie. The photographer wrote on Flickr that the abandoned Guthrie building was “one of, if not the creepiest masonic lodge building I’ve encountered. It sits abandoned across from the courthouse and just down the street from the new lodge.” The stone inscription outside the rotting doors reveals the former importance of this location: “M.W. Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. October 12 A.D. 1926 A.L. 5926. Claude Allen Sturgeon – Grand Master. W. M. Anderson – Grand Secretary”.
Abandoned Masonic Lodge No. 204
This abandoned Masonic Lodge, bearing the inscription “Jersey No. 204” looks more like a converted house. It’s understood to be located somewhere amid the vast expanse of country that is Australia, though nowhere near as grand as the New South Wales structure shown above.
Former Masonic Hall in Paisley, Scotland
(Image: via Google Street View)
This beautiful building stands on Paisley High Street in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Though empty and presumably devoid of Freemasons for years, a prominent statue of King Solomon stands proud above what would have been the front door, prior to its late 20th century overhaul. Built in the French Renaissance architectural style, the former Masonic Lodge is now Category B Listed.
Disused Masonic Lodge Building in Jefferson, Texas
(Image: Nicolas Henderson)
Of this lonely yet attractive building (at 61 Dallas Street in Jefferson, Texas) that seems to be in good condition, photographer Nicolas Henderson wrote: “Early Lodge Building, Jefferson, Texas. Texas Historical Marker. The building now seems to be abandoned.” A Jefferson Realty board stands in the grass out front, and the prominent sign on the building’s facade reveals the former occupier of the site to be McGarity’s Saloon. The pub has now moved to 208 W Dallas Street, and includes a brief history of its former premises. According to the website: “The 208 W Dallas St. building, originally 61 Dallas St., has housed many businesses dating back to 1860 including a livery, masonic lodge and saloon to name a few. Mcgarity’s Saloon is reopening as a restaurant and bar after 150 years!”
Abandoned Masonic Temple Auditorium
(Images: DJ Philly GEE)
Last but certainly not least, this abandoned masonic temple boasts an auditorium which looks more akin to a theatre than a Lodge building. Architecturally and visually stunning, some corners of the silent building appear to be derelict while others remain hauntingly preserved. (Browse dozens of abandoned theatres and music halls here.)