|THE EARLY YEARS (1787-1865)The Grand Lodge of A.F. & A. M. of Maryland is a fraternal organization made up of the associated Masonic lodges throughout the State. Part of an international organization that dates back to the founding of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, the first lodge in the United States, St. John’s Lodge, was established in Philadelphia in June of 1731. Around 1750 the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was founded. In 1780 John Coats resigned as Deputy of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania citing that he planned to reside permanently in Maryland. In July of 1783 he organized the first meetings to discuss the formation of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. On April 17, 1787 five lodges from the Eastern Shore met in Easton and established the Grand Lodge of Maryland and held their first meeting in Easton, Maryland, and elected John Coats as the first Grand Master.
Recognizing the growing significance of Baltimore City and the increase in membership in that vicinity; in May of 1794 the Grand Lodge of Maryland formally moved to Baltimore. Concordia Lodge No. 13, chartered in Baltimore on April 13, 1793 lent rooms in the Exchange Coffee House at the corner of Calvert and Waters Street to the Grand Lodge. In 1813 The Grand Lodge moved with Concordia Lodge, No. 13 into the second floor of the old Baltimore Watch House on Guilford Avenue (now the site of Baltimore City Hall).
In 1812 the first purpose-built home of the Grand Lodge of Maryland was constructed. Located at the northeast corner of Lexington and St. Paul Streets in Baltimore, it was designed by Maximilian Godefroy, who was a member of the “Loge La Verite” (later renamed King David’s Lodge, No. 68). A year later he would begin work on the Baltimore Battle Monument located on Calvert Street between Fayette Street and Lexington Avenue. Construction begun in 1812-14, but was halted during the war of 1812. When construction resumed in 1819, an assistant, Jacob Small Sr., added a story and a large central arch over the columned portico to accommodate the organization’s growing size and update the building. It was completed in 1822.
In November of 1866 the Grand Lodge of Maryland, realizing they needed more space, began construction of a new building located at 225 North Charles Street in Baltimore, next to Old St. Paul’s Church. A year later the building on St. Paul Street was leased to Baltimore City for use as an annex to the court house. Architect Edmund George Lind, a member of Warren Lodge, No. 51, was chosen to design the building. President and fellow Mason Andrew Johnson attended and gave a speech at the cornerstone laying on November 20, 1866. In 1869 the Charles Street building was completed.
On Christmas Day in 1890 the Charles Street building was engulfed by a devastating fire that nearly destroyed the structure completely. The cause of the fire was attributed to faulty electrical wiring in the ceiling of the Forepaugh Theatre, which rented space on the ground floor of the building. Many Masonic records were lost. Within six days of the disastrous fire upon Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock’s plea to William Windom, Secretary of the Treasury, the fraternity was granted permission to use the Old United States Court House in Baltimore until the Masonic Temple could be rebuilt.
On September 12, 1894 the dedication for a new building on Charles Street designed by the architectural firm of Carson & Sperry was held. Constructed on the foundations of the original building, the improved Temple featured a large banquet hall on the first floor, an armory for the Knights Templar on the fourth floor, and other features including a library. The construction costs exceeded $200,000.
On Sunday morning, February 7, 1904 the Great Baltimore Fire started in a warehouse at the harbor. The fire quickly swept northward up Charles Street. Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock, enlisted help where he could find it to remove records and other items of value from the Temple. As the tallest building in the area, fire hoses were run through the building to the roof to fight the fire and help prevent Old St. Paul’s Church next door from going up in a blaze. Fortunately winds shifted and both building were spared.
In 1908 another fire partially destroyed the Grand Lodge building. The main fire damage occurred on the third and fourth floors while the lower floors sustained severe water damage. Again the Grand Lodge called upon architect Joseph E. Sperry – by then a solo practitioner – to restore and enlarge the building. Reconstruction began almost immediately and by November 16, 1909 the building was completed with the addition of a new fifth floor. It was during this reconstruction that the services of Louis Comfort Tiffany were engaged to design some of the furnishings in the building that were executed locally in Baltimore and are still used today in the New Grand Lodge building in Cockeysville.
Redecorated to rival the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s building in Philadelphia, which Grand Master Shryock visited in 1908, the refurbishment of the Charles Street building was completed in time for his twenty-fifth anniversary as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Maryland in 1910. Attended by Masonic dignitaries from all over the country these celebrations lasted throughout the year and showed the building off to great effect.
Up to the advent of World War I Freemasonry continued to grow in Baltimore. In 1917 at the onset of World War I Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock ordered all lodges to display the American flag in every lodge room. Lodges were also ordered to open with patriotic ceremonies in which the flag was escorted to a place of honor in the ‘Masonic East.’ The Grand Lodge also contributed to a number of patriotic causes, and the Temple was kept open for the reception of all military personnel.
During World War II the Grand Lodge would again serve as a center for servicemen. Weekly dances were held and after the dance cots for the servicemen to sleep in were provided. Annual quotas for the sale of war bonds were also established for each lodge. Masonic services were established for the welfare of Masons among men in the service. Interest in Masonry, indicated by the increase in membership continued through the war years.
In 1991 a new building was planned next door to Bonnie Blink (Maryland Masonic Homes) in Cockeysville. The cornerstone laying ceremony was held on October 12, 1991 for the new complex initially conceived as the Bonnie Blink Multi-Purpose or Activities Center Building. The 60,000 square feet facility designed by the Baltimore firm of Kelly, Clayton and Mojzisek or KCM Architects featured a full service commercial kitchen, ballroom, offices, meeting rooms, and a 550-seat auditorium which serves today as the Grand Lodge Room (also known as the Corinthian Room). Oak Contracting constructed the building.
Completed in 1995 the new building featured painted faux finishes, gold leaf trim, and marble from Zimbabwe, Italy, Spain, and Taiwan, and mosaic floors by Santo J. Navarria, who is also responsible for creating the mosaic of the state seal of Maryland in the House Office Building in Washington. In 1996 the New Grand Lodge Building was dedicated. In 1997 Freemason’s Hall, a 26,000 square foot building, was completed. Erected adjacent to the New Grand Lodge, Freemason’s Hall accommodates the Commandery rooms, the Oriental room, library and museum, and Grand Lodge office.
In 1998 the Charles Street building was sold to the owners of the neighboring Tremont Suite Hotel. Between 1998 and 2005 the architectural firm of Murphy and Dittenhafer oversaw the restoration of it and in 2005 the newly renamed Tremont Grand was opened and now serves as a premier site for social and business events.