The Science Lodge #50 History Page
The Early Years
(Note: Much of the information given in the following sections previously appeared in Science Lodge #50's 150th Anniversary program book (1972), researched and written by Bro. A.E. Schultz.)
In June, 1818, Sandusky was a small village of about 100 inhabitants, many of whom were Freemasons. These early Freemasons desired to gather in fraternal union and applied to the Grand Lodge of Ohio for a Charter or Dispensation to do work. A Dispensation was granted in July, 1818 and a Charter followed in March, 1819. The first mention of Science Lodge #50 in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ohio appeared in 1819. In December of that year the officers of Science Lodge #50 were listed as Hector Kilbourne, Worshipful Master; Samuel B. Carpenter and Henry Fuller, Wardens; and Eleutherus Cook, Secretary. In the proceedings of 1820, the Grand Lodge of Ohio's committee on Petitions for Charters and Dispensations recommended that a Charter be issued to Science Lodge #50.
Between 1820 and 1836 the membership ranged from a high of 38 members to a low of 13 in 1836. The Grand Lodge representation was usually handled by Hector Kilbourne, Eleutherus Cook, George Anderson, Abner Root and John N. Stone; all of which played important roles in early Sandusky history. By 1836, due to local conditions and the Masonic oppression caused by the so-called "Morgan Affair", activities of Science Lodge #50 were suspended, the Charter reverted to the Grand Lodge of Ohio, and remained dormant until 1848. On September 4, 1848 a Dispensation was granted to Science Lodge #50 by the Grand Lodge of Ohio and the first meeting held under this dispensation occurred on September 11, 1848.
Sandusky was dealt a severe blow in 1849 by a Cholera epidemic that felled hundreds of its citizens, including members of Science Lodge #50. Among those who fell were Erastus Cook and Rodney Lathrop, signers of the then-recent 1848 charter petition. The situation greatly improved following the epidemic as both Sandusky and Science Lodge #50 began to grow in size and prosperity. During the mid-1850's the Lodge was busy with degree work and in 1855 was listed for the first time in the Sandusky City Directory. The lodge minutes for February 18, 1856 show a resolution had passed allowing a new Chapter of Royal Arch Masons free use of the lodge until "they get organized", which eventually came to realization with the establishment of a Sandusky Council of Royal and Select Masters in 1857.
The Civil War Era
During the Civil War, so-called "emergency degree work" was practiced throughout Ohio to hasten the process of becoming a Mason before the recruits left their communities for duty in the Union Army. As the war worn on, Union troops stationed at the nearby Confederate prison camp, located on Johnson's Island (shown below), frequently petitioned Science Lodge #50 for membership in Freemasonry. The lodge acted favorably on many of these petitions, however there was an unfortunate instance during 1864 in which a Union soldier who had successfully petitioned for membership died before receiving his initiation. Science Lodge #50 minutes record that his petition fee was returned to his widow, along with their condolences.
As for the Confederate prisoners, the Science Lodge #50 minutes of the period show numerous instances of charity being offered to the Masonic brethren held prisoner on Johnson's Island, often in the form of much needed clothing. Recent research, conducted by Kenneth R. Dickson, PM., confirmed a long-held belief that Science Lodge #50 played host to Confederate Masons imprisoned on Johnson's Island by allowing them to participate in meetings at Science Lodge. Naturally, as one would expect, the Confederate prisoners were returned to Johnson's Island after each meeting. As Brother Dickson wrote, "Science Lodge #50 stands out as a true example of Masonic Charity extended from Brother to Brother in times of War and the Lodge should be publicly recognized for its service."
At the conclusion of the war, Science Lodge #50's minutes noted that the Lodge Charter was "draped" for 30 days during 1865 in memory of the recently assassinated President Lincoln. During the post-war years the Lodge's membership continued to increase and reached a new high of 159 members by 1871. This period was followed with a slight decrease in membership that reached a low of 125 and was later followed by a period of expansion beginning in 1889.
The Sandusky Masonic Temple
The idea of purchasing land and erecting a building expressly designed to service the various Masonic bodies meeting in Sandusky was first seriously considered during a joint communication between Science and Perseverance lodges on December 20, 1886. After subsequent meetings, a Masonic Temple Association was formed, articles of incorporation prepared, and the capital stock set at $25,000; divided into 1000 shares valued at $25 each. A key provision of their plan restricted the purchase of stock to Freemasons, thereby ensuring the control of the building would remain in the hands of the brethren.
On March 14th the Masonic Temple Association's Board of Directors decided to build the new Sandusky Masonic Temple on the property located at the northeast corner of Wayne and Washington streets. On March 18th the capital stock was increased to $40,000 and the committee decided upon H. C. Lindsay as the Temple's architect. On April 2, Mr. Lindsay's Temple plans were accepted by the board and the construction bid awarded to the firm of Feick & Bro. on June 20th. Construction of the cellar walls were completed during the Fall of 1888; the cornerstone laid on June 24, 1889; and the Temple's construction completed in 1889.
(Note: The following information first appeared in a June 24, 1890 Sandusky Register news article detailing the Temple's dedication.) The completed Temple incorporated a modern design featuring Romanesque elements, such as the Temple's Roman arch entrance and elaborate carvings. The material used for the Temple's two front walls consisted of Amherst buff and blue sandstone, with the rear walls built of Sandusky blue limestone.
At the time of the Temple's opening, the first floor housed four store rooms occupied by a grocer, milliner, merchant tailor, and piano merchant, and a Roman arch entrance with stairs leading to the 3rd and 4th floors. The second floor was divided into offices and club rooms with Dr. Gillard occupying four rooms and the 'Sunnyendeand Club" occupying five; four rooms were set aside for the janitor and four rooms were unoccupied.
The third and fourth floors were divided into Lodge rooms, a banquet room, Armory, library, ladies' parlors, anterooms, and a kitchen. The cove around the ceiling of the Symbolic Lodge room had twelve Masonic emblems painted in oil, the ceiling itself was paneled, and from which a large suspended chandelier illuminated the room (see the image above).
The Early Twentieth Century and the Fire of 1943
Membership in Science Lodge #50 continued to grow by reaching 200 members in 1911 and 300 by 1920. The Lodge minutes of October 20, 1919 recorded a special meeting was called with 250 officers, members, and guests in attendance. This special meeting marked the 100th anniversary of Science Lodge #50's charter that included addresses by prominent Masons, including Ohio Grand Master Mathew Smith; a piano and organ recital, and concluded with the conferring of a Master Mason degree.
The Lodge's prosperity continued to grow as membership reached a new high of 335 members in 1925. In that same year the Temple Board spent nearly $40,000 rebuilding and remodeling the Temple. Despite the hardships of the Great Depression, the lodge membership only dropped to a total of 292 during those difficult times.
The Sandusky Masonic Temple was dealt a cruel blow at 11:15 PM in January of 1943 as a major fire broke out on the third floor of the structure. Control of the fire was not reached until 3:00 AM that night. The majority of the damage was confined to the 3rd floor, attic, and loft; although the first and second floors suffered heavy smoke and water damage. The Temple lost its pipe organ, robes, uniforms, and many priceless photographs and artifacts; although most of the lodge's records were spared.
Looking at the images shown above, you can see how the fire destroyed the Temple's distinctive towers and gable roof. The Temple could not be restored to its original configuration due to costs and the wartime rationing of strategic materials. As a result, the Symbolic Lodge is now located on the second floor rather than the third, with other functional rooms relocated to the second and third floors. Despite the ravages of fire, the Sandusky Masonic Temple still remains a Historic Building and an architectural icon of downtown Sandusky!
Our 200th Anniversary
We are fast approaching our 200th anniversary and information will be listed on the Events Page as we get closer to the celebrations. All area Masons are encouraged to join us in this historic milestone and if you are not a Mason, and have an interest in joining, then by all means contact us for more information!