A Brief Historical Prospective of Birmingham Lodge # 44, F. & A. M.
By Robert C. Hall, Jr., P. M.
165 years is quite a longevity record for most any type of organization, especially one that caters to men who volunteer their time, allegiance and personal philosophy. We are very fortunate to join the ranks of likeminded Brethren, who have been outstanding community leaders and forward looking citizens of their Community, State and Nation.
Free Masonry first came to Michigan under charter from the Provincial Grand Master of New York in April of 1764. We have no record of any Masonic accomplishment under this charter. In 1794, the British soldiers garrisoned in Detroit founded a Lodge by virtue of Canadian Charter but the sentiment of our Michigan pioneers who still remembered the fight for American freedom in the wars of the revolution and the French and Indian wars caused them to look with reluctance upon continuation of the Lodges formed by their recent opponents in these conflicts and with disfavor upon a Charter from a Grand Lodge under control of the British! So they petitioned the Grand Lodge of New York for a Charter in October of 1803, which was granted in September of 1806. The capture of Detroit by the British in the War of 1812 disrupted the entire civil and social life of the city. After the war, Lodges again came into being and in 1826 the Grand Lodge of Michigan was formed with Lewis Cass elected Grand Master. From this organization, our current Grand Lodge owes its existence.
Birmingham Lodge # 44, F. & A. M. was founded in 1849, when William Brown and others petitioned the Grand Lodge of Michigan for a Charter. The petition was signed by several Masons who then belonged to Pontiac Lodge No. 21 ad was refused approval for the reason that if granted, those members would then be members of both Lodges. However upon the promise of the affected Brethren to demit from Pontiac # 21 for Birmingham # 44, a dispensation or provisional Charter was granted to Birmingham # 44 and on Thursday evening, April 25, 1850 Birmingham No. 44, under dispensation met in what was then the Jennings Building. At this meeting, William Brown was elected our first Worshipful Master.
The first petition for membership was received from William McKellop on July 18, 1850. It was quickly and laboriously acted upon. The fees for the three Degrees in Masonry at that time were ten dollars and the annual dues were 25 cents!
The Charter or Warrant taking Birmingham No. 44 out of the class of a Lodge Under Disposition and actually making it a regular Chartered Lodge was granted on June 9. 1851.
The first quarters or home of Birmingham No. 44, F. & A. M. was located in the Jennings Building. The Lodge occupied the Hall or Loft above Mr. Jennings Tailor Shop, which was located on the street level of the building. The late Dr. D. M. Johnson related that the Brethren were afraid the building would collapse with the active membership, so in 1851 the Lodge moved to new quarters.
The next Lodge home was in the Hunt Building. This building was occupied by the Lodge from 1852 to 1872. It was a two story building, the ground floor of which was a General Store. In 1872, Brother Captain Allen J. Bigelow, contemplated building a new business block at the corner of Pierce and Maple. By agreement with the Lodge, a second story was added and with the Lodge paying the cost thereof, being about $1,750.00, Birmingham # 44 received a 99 year lease upon that second story. This building was also known as Brother Shain’s Store. During 1918 a Masonic Temple Association was formed and the property at the corner of Forest and Woodward was purchased.
Getting back to the Shain Building, the records of the Lodge show that on December 23, 1873, the Lodge was called to order at 4:00 P. M. for the purpose of dedicating our new Masonic Hall (Shain Building). Alanson Partridge, W. M. called the audience together. In attendance was our own P. M. Hugh McCurdy, Grand Master of Masons in Michigan. 250 Brethren attended that grand event. Later that evening, Most Worshipful Grand Master Hugh McCurdy addressed 600people in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Birmingham.
Our next home witnessed preparation in 1922. The Peabody home was remodeled in 1922 and in May of 1923 it was dedicated by the officers of Grand Lodge of the State of Michigan. Birmingham No. 44 resided and prospered at the Peabody Mansion until 1963. The Lodge became reputed for its fine presentation of the Ritual and for its extreme competence in all matters Masonic. An example of this that under the leadership of W. M. Clyde H. Wood our Lodge was frequently called upon to perform the entirety of the Ritual work for other Lodges. So much so, that in 1927 eighty (80) members of our Lodge under special dispensation from the Grand Lodges of Ohio and Michigan journeyed to Toledo, Ohio to confer the Master Mason Degree for Lotus Lodge No. 625, F. & A. M. in the Commandry room of the Temple in Toledo!
A note on our picture of Most Worshipful Alan Partridge hanging in the vestibule or parlor, who was one of the most outstanding Brethren of this Lodge in the first hundred years. He was Worshipful Master of this Lodge continuously from 1854 through 1866, 1868 through 1869, and 1872 through 1880 and again in 1883. During the year 1882 he was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. Birmingham Lodge owes much of its success to his untiring efforts. In his civil life, he was a prominent figure in the City of Birmingham and Oakland County.
The “50’s” saw great expansion and activity in the Birmingham area. Our Lodge continued growing and expanding by leaps and bounds. Parking became a problem and a search was begun to find a newer and more accommodating home. Finally in 1964 on January 16, 1964 the Birmingham Eccentric was filled with bold headlines “B’HAM Masonic Temple Sold”. This front page headline boldly stated this fact along with a picture the Peabody Mansion. A shocking development for the city and an end of an era, surprising many. Gone were the days of walking to the Lodge from work and walking with Brethren to their homes after Lodge activities. A visible and notable change of venue and activity. Our new Temple was dedicated November 7, 1964. Many changes, activities and events have occurred here at Birmingham # 44 since 1964. Most of the members sitting in Lodge tonight were not even born yet and that serves as a testament to the work and perseverance of those before you.
1996 was a significant year as our Brethren from Four Square Lodge # 537 became one with us. Their friendliness, zeal for Masonry and great traditions folded in neatly and Masonicly. All in all, our history as a Masonic Lodge leaves a trail of impeccable nuance and amiability for all of those Brethren who have traveled to the East as Brothers and Craftsmen from the Temple!
Robert C. Hall, Jr., P. M., Chaplain
(Most of this information came from our history archives from the Birmingham Eccentric, personal accounts and records of the Lodge. RCH, 2/17/16)
THE HISTORY OF FOUR SQUARE LODGE #537
By John Pauluk, PM
Four Square Lodge #537 was granted a dispensation on April 13, 1925. Their first meeting was held on April 22, 1925 at the Old Temple Bulding at 73 Monroe Street, in Detroit Michigan. January 4, 1926, Four Square moved to Loyalty Temple at 646 Lothrop St in Detroit. It was located across the street from the Fisher Building. Four Square was consecrated June 21, 1926.
In 1944, once again, Four Square moved to the Ionic Masonic Temple located on Grand River Ave, south of West Grand Blvd – just across the street from the old Olympia Hockey Stadium in Detroit.
Ionic Temple was sold in 1962, whereby Four Square moved to Eureka Temple on E 7 Mile Rd, just W of John-R St in Detroit. Eureka owned the building, and there were four lodges who met there: Eureka, Tubor, Archive, and Four Square.
Eureka sold the Temple building in 1979 and moved into Warren Lodge. Four Square Lodge relocated to Birmingham Masonic Temple on September 7, 1979. That year WB John Pauluk was Master of Four Square and WB Bill Waltscott was Master of Birmingham 44. Archive Lodge (consecrated in 1927), who had moved to Centerline after Eureka sold their building, consolidated with Four Square in Birmingham. This was followed by St Andrews Lodge #588 (consecrated in 1954), who also merged with Four Square on June 9, 1983. Before merging with Four Square, St Andrews was known for many Scottish members who had formed a Scottish Degree team with full Scottish dress. This became known then as Four Square’s Scottish Degree Team. The ornate Officers Aprons and collared Jewels that Birmingham #44 currently wear came originally from Archive Lodge.
In 1996 Four Square was suffering from declining membership, and with a lack of new members and difficulty filling the Officer’s chairs, it became necessary to consolidate with another Lodge. Being a tenant of Birmingham’s for 17 years and having a good relationship with their members, Four Square consolidated with Birmingham #44 on October 2, 1996.