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Freemasons looking forward to returning to New Westminster in September

Wine, oil and corn were used as in a ceremony to rededicate a cornerstone at a development site in downtown New Westminster on Saturday.

Wine, oil and corn were used as in a ceremony to rededicate a cornerstone at a development site in downtown New Westminster on Saturday.

Local freemasons and representatives from the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon gathered to rededicate a 1912 cornerstone on the freemason hall at 508 Agnes St. The plaque was removed from the building when redevelopment of the site got underway.

John Harbick, a member of Lewis Lodge, said the ceremony is symbolic of the three lodges “coming home” – something they expect to happen in September. While construction is taking place at the site, Union Solomon Lodge #9, Lewis Lodge #57 and Perfection Lodge #75 are meeting at a lodge hall in North Surrey.

“It’s been a long, long process,” he said of getting a new hall. “At one of our banquets, there was a man there who said they were talking about building a new lodge building in 1961. Buildings age. The roof was leaking. Mold gets in the walls. The boiler went, and we were holding a meeting in November and you could see your breath in the room that’s how cold it was.”

When completed, the site will include a 19-storey highrise and a four-storey masonic hall that includes the building’s original historic façade.

“The cornerstone was actually on the façade of the old building,” Harbick told the Record before the ceremony. “What they are going to do is they are going to symbolically rededicate the cornerstone. Freemasonry has a lot of symbolism.”

Local heritage buffs salvaged some of the contents of the old building, but the freemasons also saved some items for reuse in their new home.

“Some of the fixtures from the original building will be going back in – like two giant pillars out of wood that are magnificent. They are going to be placed in the building,” Harbick said. “We have had architects involved in this design team. It’s supposed to be spectacular. The original door fixtures have been refinished. It’s been a long process.”

Unlike the old building that didn’t even have a foundation, the new state-of-the-art lodge hall will include modern features like Wi-Fi.

A fraternal organization that includes a variety of rituals and passwords, freemasons come from all walks of life and all religions (they must believe in a supreme being). The Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon website states that freemasonry has been described as a group of men dedicated to becoming better men and making their community a better place.

“The ideal is to strive – if you see something that needs to be done, you do it. You don’t do it to get all the glory and accolades. You do it because it needed to be done. Then you step back into the crowd and walk away,” Harbick said. “You strive.”