The Cornerstone – Old Lodge Hall

Are you aware of the “Cornerstone” that is still in place in the Old Lodge Hall, the site of our glorious Old Lodge Room, on West King Street in Lancaster?

Recently, I came across a letter written in May of 1988 by our deceased illustrious brother Jack W.W. Loose to then secretary illustrious brother Richard Brocco.

The letter was responding to a request to have the “cornerstone” removed and placed in the Einolf Museum at Lodge 43 at the Masonic Center. Brother Loose went on to explain that the building is a Registered National Landmark and as such the exterior of the building can not be altered in any way.

Brother Loose also had included a black and white picture of the “cornerstone” in place next to the private entrance that once existed for Lodge 43. That doorway was removed in one of the renovation projects that was to occur in the several expansions of the building. The “cornerstone” is visible in the lower right corner of the image, but it is impossible to read what was on the “cornerstone”.

Curiosity getting my attention, I visited the Old Lodge Building to see if I could find the “cornerstone” and see what was inscribed on it. Sure enough it is still in place, but no longer on a corner as one would think of a cornerstone. Rather, it was conveniently hid behind a huge flowerpot put there by the current store front owner. I took a few pictures and include one for your awareness.

It is very difficult to read except for the date of AL 5856. That equates to 1856. I further researched and found that the unreadable lettering reads “Grand Master Williamson”. Peter Williamson was Right Worshipful Grand Master in 1856 at the time when this major building expansion took place. Our history reflects he visited the Old Lodge Hall and there was quite a celebration commemorating the new three story addition.

Historically it raised some questions. The primary question, was there another cornerstone placed in 1798 at the time of the original construction of the building? Brother Jack W.W. Loose I thinks explains in a note that since the lodge did not own the 1st floor of the building which had been owned by the city there was no masonic cornerstone laid at that time.

In 1856, the lodge approved a plan to purchase an open lot of ground, which had been an open narrow street, from the city that bordered the existing Lodge Hall. Once purchased a three story addition was built onto the existing building. The doorway was part of the addition, and the “cornerstone” as viewed in the picture was now placed in that “northwest corner” of the structure. The “northeast” corner remaining the part of the building still owned by the city.

Today, the “cornerstone” no longer resides on a corner of the building, and the doorway no longer exists. Additional expansions, that are well documented in our Lodge’s history, resulted in the “cornerstone” no longer on a corner. As the building grew down West King Street with additions added on to the existing structure, the “cornerstone” did not move and today is found still in its original position, but now more centered in the building.

If you would like to see the “cornerstone” it can be found on the northside of the building (in the alley between the Old Lodge Hall and Central Market). It is ground level where the first store front business is and there is a ground to roof brick pillar right at the site of the “cornerstone” which represents another expansion modification that took place in that location in future years.

Another very interesting part of our history.

Nathaniel Gilchrist PM
Lodge 43 Historian