Masons Celebrate 100 Years In Sandy Hook Lodge
Hiram Lodge No. 18 A.F. & A.M. was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut on January 17, 1791. In the first 60 years of its existence, there were five meeting places for the local Masons: Bennett Perry's Lodge Room, which served the Masons from 1791 to 1821; Czar Keler's Lodge Room (1821-1823), William Blakely's Lodge Room (1823-1825), Masonic Hall (1825-1848), and Alexander Hall's home, which began hosting meetings in 1848.
In 1905 the lodge purchased a lot for $150 from the parish of St John's Episcopal Church, whose property on Washington Avenue in Sandy Hook was adjacent to the proposed location for a new Masonic Hall. For the sum of $2,949, H.C. McCollam of Redding was hired to build the new lodge.
The lodge, at 3 Washington Avenue, was completed in 1906. The first meeting held in the new temple was on November 21, 1906, and they have continued in that location since.
Last week the current members of Hiram Lodge held a rededication ceremony to celebrate the first century of their lodge's existence. In addition to members of Hiram Lodge, brothers were joined by a few family members as well as members of King Solomon's Lodge No. 7, located in Woodbury, and lodges from further afield. Masons drove in from across the state to attend the ceremony, but certainly the ones who traveled the furthest were members of Hay Market Lodge No. 313 A.F. & A.M. in Haymarket, Va. Four of them made the eight-hour drive on Wednesday, arriving in Newtown by early afternoon in order to attend the rededication that evening.
Nearly 60 people attended the ceremony on March 15, which began with dinner in Fellowship Hall on the lodge's first floor before moving upstairs into the Lodge Room.
"We would usually have 25 or 30 people at a regular meeting, but when you have a special function it attracts a lot of people from other lodges," said Dick Hubert, who is Hiram Lodge's treasurer and the district deputy. Bruce Egdahl, a lodge member and the executive chef at Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, created a delicious dinner of beef stew, tossed salad, peas and carrots, and a chicken-pasta entree. Dessert refreshments, provided by King Solomon's Lodge No. 7, followed the formal ceremony.
Newtown resident George Greytak is Connecticut's Most Worshipful Grand Master — the highest office a Mason can hold. The ceremony on March 15 was extraordinarily special for Mr Greytak because it meant he was presiding over a ceremony that was honoring his home lodge. Mr Greytak is the first member of Hiram Lodge to serve the Grand Lodge of Connecticut as the Most Worshipful Grand Master.
Mr Greytak and his suite of officers were ushered into the Lodge Room and were received by Hiram Lodge Worshipful Master Lemuel G. Johnson, Jr. After the men were introduced and seated, Mr Johnson then ceremoniously passed Hiram Lodge's gavel to Mr Greytak, in effect giving him run of the lodge.
Mr Greytak invited Mr and Mrs John Tamborino to the east corner of the Lodge Room for the lighting of candles. Mr Tamborino, a past master, and his wife lit candles to honor William Mattegat and John Tamborino III, two active members of the military. The candle lighting also honored, said Mr Greytak, "brothers who have moved ahead of us."
"We rededicate this building, in which we find our strength and accomplishment," he then said. "We offer a blessing on all who shall labor in this building."
The Pledge of Allegiance was recited, followed by Grand Chaplain Reverend Craig McClellan leading a prayer at the Lodge Room's altar.
Two Masons then lifted up a white cloth on a table adjacent to the altar, which had been covering a symbolic lodge. As tapers were lit, Mr Greytak explained that the small-scale lodge and the imminent proceedings would symbolize events that happened during the time of King Solomon's Temple and its formation.
As those who were participating in the ceremony then encircled the symbolic lodge, Mr Greytak poured a small amount of corn onto the model.
"We do this to strengthen and sustain us," he said, adding that the corn was a symbol of nourishment.
A small amount of wine, a symbol of refreshment, was then poured by Mr Greytak onto the miniature building, "with empathy and compassion," he said. Finally, a small amount of oil was poured "to signify the joy which should animate every Mason in Connecticut at the completion of this ceremony," he said.
"May the Lord bless the brethren here assembled in all their undertakings," Mr Greytak then offered as prayer.
The tapers were extinguished, and the symbolic lodge was re-covered.
Mr Greytak then addressed his brothers and guests, calling the evening "a milestone for Hiram Lodge No 18."
He honored Jehovah, whom he called "the grand architect of the universe," and reminded everyone that "this rededication pays honor to the values of Freemasonry."
From a prepared statement, he then offered, in part:
"I bring you the warm fraternal greetings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Connecticut, as well as my own personal greetings. It is a real pleasure to have you here this evening as we celebrate a milestone in the history of Hiram Lodge No. 18, my home lodge.
"Much has changed over the past two centuries, not only in Newtown, but also throughout the world," Mr Greytak continued. "Having served this lodge as historian, I had the opportunity to research many of the ancient records, and I learned that some of the problems we face today were faced by our Brothers of long ago.
"Membership ebbed and flowed and attendance went up and down. There seldom seemed to be enough money to support the buildingâ¦ But the main thing I learned is that the Brothers of Hiram Lodge have always, from the very beginnings in 1791, lived their lives according to the same Masonic ideas we cherish today."
Before fully concluding the ceremonial portion of the evening, Mr Greytak also bestowed a special honor upon one of the Masons in the lodge that evening. Past Master (St Tammany Lodge No. 5, Hampton, Va.) Marvin G. Self was celebrated for his 50 years of devotion to Freemasonry.
"It is with great pleasure — for a crowning moment in your Masonic career, to commemorate your half-century of Masonic fellowship," Mr Greytak said to Mr Self as he pinned a Masonic badge onto the gentleman's lapel.
"I join everyone here to pay tribute to you and the fraternity which opened its doors to you."
In addition to the 50-year Freemasons pin, Mr Self also asked Mr Greytak to pin a watch onto his lapel that had been willed to him by a friend who made Mr Self promise that he would not wear the watch before his 50th Masonic anniversary.
"When I look into the mirror, I can see what time has done to me," Mr Self said. "But itâs been a great honor and a great trip for me. It's been a lot of love, brotherly love.
"I've been to lodges from Florida to Maine, and many in between," he continued, choking back tears. "But I have never been in a lodge more friendly and loving that the one I am standing in right now."