FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Fort Wayne chapter of the fraternal organization, Grand Lodge of Indiana, will be hosting a ceremony on March 25 to celebrate its bicentennial.
The masonic lodge, Wayne Lodge No. 25, is inviting the public to celebrate the 200th anniversary of freemasonry in Fort Wayne.
The organization will also be hosting members from across the United States to join the celebration.
They will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its building that day as well.
Nathan Baggett, one of Wayne Lodge’s trustees, said officers for the organization from across Indiana will be in attendance for the event.
“As part of the celebration, we will be having an exhibit at the downtown Allen County Public Library where people will get to see the inaugural bible that was used during President George Washington’s inauguration and the gavel he used to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol,” Baggett said.
The two artifacts are not held at museums and are owned by Potomac Lodge No. 5 in Washington, D.C. and St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York City.
The inaugural bible was also used by Presidents Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
He said the organization’s purpose is to help men get to know others in the community and build long lasting relationships.
“We do a lot of things that involve self improvement, improving our communities and learning and growing together,” he said. “The guys come together and become a family.”
The Wayne Lodge can help men who are new to the community and are trying to meet new people.
When the Freemasons Hall in downtown Fort Wayne began being used in 1925, it became a central hub for activities in the city. The building contains a ballroom, social room and an auditorium.
He said between the 1920s and 1950s, the organization had its largest number of members ever and was one of the most active places for men to socialize in Fort Wayne.
“We used to have a lunch counter and a barber shop in the building and men would come here to eat lunch and hang out,” he added.
Today, not many members come to hang out at the Freemasons Hall like they used to. With more activities happening in the city, the Wayne Lodge started renting out its building in 2010 for the public to host events like weddings, proms and banquets.
People have the opportunity to rent out the entire building for a weekend.
He said the building is also part of the National Register of Historic Places and has a plaque for it on the exterior of the building.
The building’s social room is often used for birthday, holiday and even Super Bowl parties.
Members of the organization have the ability to recruit new members. He said they have a process for people who are interested in joining.
“Interested candidates file a petition with us and we do a sit down interview with them to see if they’re a good fit,” Baggett said. “We like to see what type of person they are and make sure they are not prejudice or anything like that.”
The lodge also conducts background checks on potential candidates and prefers men who have a faith in god. They welcome all men regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.
The one major rule they have at the lodge is they do not allow members to talk about politics or religion. They feel those topics are too divisive and want to keep that out of the organization.
“We are all on the same level here. You get to meet people of all walks of life,” he said. Members of the lodge come from a variety of professions like doctors and judges.
The building’s Ionic room is where the lodge holds its meetings for business purposes, hosts educational lectures and other ceremonies. At the top floor is where the auditorium is. He said he calls it ‘Fort Wayne’s best kept secret’ and where the ceremony will be hosted.
“It was built for hosting military drill teams and they would host competitions in here,” he said.
The auditorium contains all the original woodwork and has one of the largest working pipe organs around.
“One of the major things here that we teach is about moral integrity and honesty,” he said.