The Golden Age of Freemasonry

The "Golden Age of Fraternities" occurred between 1870 and 1910 during which time there were over 750,000 Freemasons in the United States. The appeal to join had many facets that including the order’s structure, prestige, financial aid, business and political connections, entertainment, and sociability. Often the lodge meeting was also one of the few activities that took place on lodge night. The popularity at the time was evident through the visual displays of membership, with “men proudly wearing the Masonic symbol,” to parades and public events. Businessmen, politicians and clergy joining lent their respectability to the organization. For the great number of middle and working class members, the lodge offered an opportunity to achieve distinction. Another reason a man might seek membership was financial aid. Lodges sometimes offered charity to fellow members and their families. If a Mason could not help a brother in need, they were to direct him to someone who could provide assistance. Masonic charity also included visits to sick brothers so they would be reminded of this fraternal support

Famous Midland Masons

Some of the most notable Midlanders were Masons including;

  • Lyman Church (Midland Board of Supervisors 1871)

  • Sherman Olmstead (Midland Board of Supervisors 1865, 1869)

  • D.W. Chase (Midland Board of Supervisors 1877-80)

  • Thomas Reardon (Senior Grand Deacon of Michigan 1905 prior to his untimely death)

  • Asa Bacon (Midland Board of Supervisors 1863-64,1866, later Superintendent Presbyterian Hospital of Chicago)

  • Benjamin F. Bradley (Village President of Midland Michigan 1884)

  • Herbert H. Dow (Founder and President of Dow Chemical)

  • Willard Dow (President of Dow Chemical)

  • Dr. Leland I. Doan (President of Dow Chemical)

  • Ralph M. Hunter (President of the Electrochemical Society 1951-52)

  • James W. Stevens (Mayor of Midland)

  • Earl Bennet (Chairman of the Board of Dow Chemical)

  • Carl Gerstacker (Chairman of the Board of Dow Chemical)

  • Norman C. Rumple (Publisher Midland Daily News and Member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame)

  • Dr. Francis B. Lambie (Most Worshipful Grand Master of Michigan 1939)

Even though titans of industry and public service were members of the Lodge all Freemasons regardless of social or business standing are equal with exception of the duly elected master of the lodge and when voting on motions or membership to our fraternity all members have an equal vote. The most notable example of this is of Teddy Roosevelt.

Teddy Roosevelt tells a humorous story of returning to his hometown Freemason Lodge while still President only to find his gardener had become the Master of the Lodge. Roosevelt and his gardener never discussed this matter, but Roosevelt was subservient to his gardener in all issues related to the Lodge even while president - and he believed that's exactly how it should be.

To Centre Lodge fell the good fortune to have as one of its members one of the greatest Masons in the State of Michigan. This distinguished Brother was Dr. Francis B. Lambie who was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in 1908 and who served as Worshipful Master of Centre Lodge in 1914 and 1915. He rose to become the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Michigan in 1939. The high point in his Masonic life came when he was sent to England by the Grand Lodge of Michigan as its representative at the installation of H.R.H., the Duke of Kent as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England by his brother, King George Vl in 1939. After Dr. Francis B. Lambie served as Grand Master, he was elected Right Worshipful Grand Lecturer in 1941and acted in that capacity for ten years.

A lodge is chartered in Midland - 1870

During the 19th century, Michigan’s forests yielded more money and created more millionaires than did all the gold mined during California’s Gold Rush. In turn, this wealth fueled the great financial and industrial rise of the state at the beginning of the 20th century. In the middle years of this era, Midland was a bristling lumber town. Main Street was paved with cedar blocks and fourteen saloons were located within city limits.

During the heyday of the lumber industry Centre Lodge #273 received it's dispensation in 1869, the same year that the village of Midland was incorporated. The charter members of the lodge were twenty one Freemasons who most likely belonged to Saginaw Lodge No. 77 which at the time was the only lodge north of Flint.

On February 3, 1870, a team from Grand Lodge dedicated the first lodge room in Midland Michigan. Newspaper files indicate that the first Masonic Temple was a room on the second floor of a store building owned by John Sias. The building was located south of the Tittabawassee River, close to and at the left of the Benson Street bridge. The lodge room was scantily furnished and heated by a wood burning stove.

1884 - 1910

By 1884 the lodge moved to the 3rd floor of the Reardon Block which was located directly on the south side of Main street where Rodd street currently is. By the early 1890's, the lumber industry around Midland had dwindled to a trickle. Midland was now a town with a dusty Main Street since the cedar blocks had settled below the surface of the street. It was at this time that the lodge had one of its longest serving Worshipful Master. Thomas Reardon was Master of the lodge for eight consecutive years, from 1893 to 1900.

On August 15, 1910, a fire destroyed the Reardon Block leaving Centre Lodge and Midland Chapter of Eastern Star without a home. All the furnishings and records of both organizations were lost. Fortunately the Independent Order of Odd Fellows graciously offered the use of their hall until the Masons could arrange for a place of their own. By November 10th the lodge had decided to applying for a five year lease in the to be re-built Reardon Building at the same location.

1911 - 1917

By the first of December 1910 , the first tenant moved into the new building. This was the Wenzel and Stark Hardware (later just called Wenzel Hardware). By March 1911 , the new lodge rooms were completed on the second floor over the Wenzel Hardware store. Centre Lodge held its first meeting in its new home on March 9, 1911 under a special dispensation until formal dedication plans could be arranged. A newspaper article dated March 10, 1911 said: "The Lodge room proper, entries and smoking room are heavily carpeted with brussels and equipped with massive mission wood and leather furniture. A beautiful piano, especially finished, combination player matches the furniture. Secret rooms, a spacious dining room and dance floor and kitchen complete the new home." The Lodge room was dedicated on April 11, 1911 by Grand Lodge. The lodge decided to move after the rent was increased in 1916 and 1917.

1918 - 1931

In January of 1918, Centre Lodge moved into its present location, renting the portion on the 3rd floor consisting of the lodge room and the anteroom. The Lodge room was dedicated April 25, 1918 by the Most Worshipful Grand Master and the Grand Lodge Officers. By 1920 the lodge consisted of over 300 master masons with many other appendant organizations utilizing the same space. Due to the growth of the lodge membership additional space on the 3rd floor was rented and 90-foot frontage lot at 240 West Main Street was purchased for a planned new lodge building. The new lodge building was never built due to the start of the great depression in 1929. The subsequent failure of the Midland County Savings Bank allowed the lodge to purchase the Larkin Block in 1931.

1932 - Present Day

The first improvement done to the building was the installation a boiler in new boiler to heat the building in 1932. The loan for purchasing the building was be paid off by 1941. The first major improvement occurred in 1950, when the Lodge room was completely remodeled. The Lodge room, lobby and stairwell were paneled with wood; theater seats were installed, new carpeting was laid and new drapes covered the windows. To provide greater ease for reaching the third floor the first passenger elevator in the city of Midland was installed in the summer of 1953. Due to fires consuming two of the three previous lodge building a sprinkler system was added in 1960. Between 1967 and 1969 improved ventilation systems were added to update the efficiency of air circulation and make the lodge more comfortable in the summer months. Ironically the final improvement done to the building under Masonic ownership was to install a new boiler in 1991. The age of the building requiring ever more expenditures to keep it up to date resulted in the Lodge's decision to sell the building for one dollar in exchange for a free 99 year lease to the third floor.