Duncan Masonic Temple

Our Duncan Masonic Temple at 163 Canada Avenue is a landmark building in downtown Duncan.

It is home to Temple Lodge, No.33 and Tzouhalem Chapter, No.26, R.A.M. as well as to our two excellent long term commercial tenants, Expedia Cruise Ship Centers and Specially For You Uniforms and Adaptive Wear.

Duncan Masonic Temple, 1963 Canada Avenue, Duncan, B.C.
Duncan Masonic Temple, 163 Canada Avenue, Duncan, B.C.

Passersby will find two plaques on the street facade at the entrance to the Duncan Masonic Temple. One plaque honours the four Brethren of Temple Lodge, No.33 who died in the service of Canada during World War 1 (1914-18). The second commemorates the Brethren of Temple Lodge, No.33 who served in Canada’s military forces during World War 1. These plaques were unveiled on 11 November 2013 and 11 November 2014 respectively.

Our World War 1 Memorial Plaque, unveiled on our Duncan Masonic Temple on 11 November 2014
Our World War 1 Memorial Plaque, unveiled on our Duncan Masonic Temple on 11 November 2014

For visitors, here’s a map to the Duncan Masonic Temple:

HISTORY OF THE DUNCAN MASONIC TEMPLE

The Duncan Masonic Temple was constructed in 1912 for between $8,000 – $10,000 on land with a 1912 assessed value of $1,900. Temple Lodge, No.33 records indicate the plans for the building were submitted to the Lodge by W. Bro. Christopher Dobson and the building contractor was George Charles Mesher, a Victoria architect and builder who was also a Freemason, a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1.

The E&N Railway Station (left) and the Duncan Masonic Temple (center) circa 1913-1914
The E&N Railway Station (left) and the Duncan Masonic Temple (center) circa 1913-1914

Like many 19th and early 20th century Masonic Temple buildings, our Duncan Masonic Temple was designed with commercial space on the main, or street, level. The building’s designers intended that the rental income from this commercial space would be used for the maintenance and upkeep of the building. It has been, for over a century.

As mentioned above, we presently have two excellent, long term commercial tenants: Expedia Cruise Ship Centers and Specially For You Uniforms and Adaptive Wear.

Although our Lodge records indicate W. Bro. Christopher Dobson submitted the plans for the building, it must be noted that Bro. George C. Mesher was a successful architect in Victoria and it is therefore quite possible that he, in fact, was responsible for the design of the Duncan Masonic Temple.

Christopher Dobson, circa 1928
Christopher Dobson, circa 1928. (photo copyright Temple Lodge, No.33)
George Charles Mesher, architect and builder. His firm built our Duncan Masonic Temple in 1912.
George Charles Mesher, architect and builder. His firm built our Duncan Masonic Temple in 1912.

While it would be quite prestigious to state categorically that our building was designed by a local architect of Bro. George C. Mesher‘s stature, we cannot state that with certainty. Our existing records indicate that W. Bro. Christopher Dobson “submitted” the plans for our Duncan Masonic Temple building and Bro. George C. Mesher‘s firm built it.

Since “the plan submitted by W. Bro. Christopher Dobson” is currently not found in our Lodge records we cannot say whether that plan was drawn up by W.B. Christopher Dobson or was the work of Bro. George C. Mesher submitted to the Lodge by W.Bro. Christopher Dobson.

So while it would be very desirable to conclusively credit the design of our Duncan Masonic Temple to the extant work of Bro. George C. Mesher, we can only say with certainty that Bro. Mesher’s firm built our Duncan Masonic Temple. Click here for more information on the work of Brother George C. Mesher.

Here is a brief history of the Duncan Masonic Temple’s construction, financing and dedication, taken from Temple Lodge, No.33 records, Grand Lodge of B.C. & Yukon records and local newspaper reports of the day:

Lodge Minutes, Regular Meeting, 11 March 1905

“….Moved by R. Ventress seconded by Bro. T. Pitt that the W.M., S.W. and J.W. be a committee to have the lot cleaned up and if necessary surveyed at once. Carried……[Note: at present we are not sure which “lot” this refers to. It could be the land on which our present building stands or it could be another lot acquired by the Lodge. We will do more research and post whatever information we find.]

Lodge Minutes, Regular Meeting, 8 April 1905

“…[Account] from Bro. J.H. Whittome for conveyancing and registering lot for $8.50 was received….. [note: at present, we are not sure which lot this refers to. Since later records (see below) indicate negotiations for purchase of our present lot being undertaken in 1911, we cannot say with certainty which lot is referred to here.]

The W.M. then reported that they had awarded the contract for clearing up the lot. A discussion was then entered into about the Hall. Bro. Smith was requested to give an answer at our next meeting whether we could secure the present Hall for another year or more.

Moved by Bro. W. Gidley seconded by Bro. S.W. that a committee consisting of Bros. W.M., S.W. and J.W. be a committee to see what a hall could be built for and what money can be had for. Carried……”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Meeting, 13 May 1905

“……[Account] from Bro. Paul was received for cleaning up the lot for $30 also for taxes on same of 85 [cents]……

Committee on Hall reported that they had enquired about building a Hall and it would cost approx 1700 $ to build one. W. Bro. Smith reported that the Lodge could have the Hall for 1-2 or 3 years at the same rent as we have been paying.

After some discussion it was moved by Bro. Perry seconded by Bro. Evans that we accept the offer of Bro. Smith to rent the hall for another year. Carried……….

……….Moved by Bro. Smith seconded by Bro. Jas. Maitland-Dougall that the officer in charge of refreshments supply beer for those wishing it.

Moved in amendment by Bro. Perry seconded by Bro. J. Campbell that we dispense with the use of beer at refreshments.

Amendment lost. Original motion carried……

…………Moved by Bro. Gidley seconded by Bro. Jas. Evans that the Lodge tender a hearty vote of thanks to Bro. Smith for his liberal offer of the use of the Lodge rooms. Carried.

The Lodge was closed in due and ancient form peace and harmony prevailing at 11:05 [p.m.]…”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication of 14 April 1906

“…Bro. Mellin brought up the subject of building a Lodge room which was discussed and it was moved by Bro. Mellin seconded by Bro. Dwyer that a committee be appointed to draw up some plans and get some estimates as to probable cost. Carried.

The W.M. appointed Bro. Campbell Bro. Robinson and Bro. Mellin as the committee….”

[Note: Wor. Brother James M. Campbell and Wor. Brother Samuel Robinson were both building contractors by trade.]

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication of 8 September 1906

“…Moved by Bro. Peterson seconded by Bro. Gidley that the Report of the Building Committee be received and the committee discharged. Carried.
Moved by Bro. Mellin seconded by Bro. Campbell that Lodge Finance Committee Report on ways and means of raising funds and report at the next regular meeting. Carried….”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 11 March 1911

“…..W. Bro. Wm. Gidley as chairman and on behalf of the committee appointed to secure a home for the Lodge, made an oral report covering negotiations with Mrs. M. Norcross for the purchase of a portion of a lot on Front Street in the townsite of Duncan, more particularly described as a part of Lot 5 Block 4, Section 17, Range 6, Quamichan District, said part being the land south of the store and outbuildings erected thereon, known as the Bon Marche, overhang of eaves being duly allowed for, purchase price $2400.00.

Wor. Bro. Gidley further reported that on the advice and consent of the General Purpose Committee of the Lodge, he had forwarded the sum of $25.00 to Mrs. M. Norcross to secure the option on the property, pending the actions of the Lodge in the premises, and, he submitted two letters from Mrs. M. Norcross, dated February 18, 1911 and February 23rd, 1911 respectively, as a part of his report, these letters covering the facts and terms in concise language as far as negotiations had proceeded, and Wor. Bro. Gidley on behalf of the committee requested that the Lodge now proceed to take proper action.

Moved by Bro. Secretary, seconded by Bro. J. Islay Mutter, that the report of Wor. Bro. Gidley, including the two letters from Mrs. M. Norcross, be received and filed, and the action of Wor. Bro. Gidley covering the negotiations for the purchase of that property be approved by the Lodge. Motion carried.

It was further moved by Bro. Secretary, seconded by Bro. J. Islay Mutter, that the Wor. Master appoint a committee of three to constitute Trustees for the Lodge to hold the property being negotiated for in trust for the Lodge. Motion carried.

The Wor. Master appointed as such Trustees: Wor. Bro. Wm. Gidley, Wor. Bro. A.H. Peterson and Wor. Bro. James McL. Campbell…….”

Lodge Minutes, Emergent Communication, 20 March 1912

“….The Wor. Master announced that this communication had been called by him to devise ways and means to erect a Masonic Temple and trusted that the brethren present would give the benefit of their advice on the subject.

The Lodge then waited for the arrival of Wor. Bro. James Campbell with the plans of the proposed building.

The meeting continued: “After considerable discussion participated in by many of the Brethren present it was moved by Wor. Bro. A. Peterson and seconded by Bro. Junior Warden (J.H. Peterson) ‘That a committee of three be appointed by the Worshipful Master to solicit funds from the Masonic Fraternity and to issue debentures bearing interest, to negotiate loans and give mortgage if found necessary, and to proceed with the creation of the Masonic Temple along the lines of the plan submitted by Wor. Bro. C. Dobson at the cost of about eight thousand or ten thousand dollars.’

The motion carried and the Worshipful Master appointed Wor. Bros. Wm Gidley and Thos. Pitt and Bro. J. Islay Mutter as such committee and instructed Wor. Bro. Dobson to prepare specifications at the earliest possible date.”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 13 April 1912

“………..The written report of Wor. Bro. Gidley, Chairman of the Building Committee of the new Masonic Temple was presented and read. Moved by Wor. Bro. Gidley and seconded by Bro. J.H. Peterson that Wor. Bro. Thos. Pitt be appointed to act as Trustee for debenture holders of the new Masonic Temple. Motion carried.”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 11 May 1912

“……Wor. Bro. Gidley reported orally stating that the contract for the new Temple had been let to Mesher Bros. who would commence work at once and be finished by Sept. 1st……
It was moved and carried ‘that the secretary be instructed to notify the M.W. Grand Master that the Lodge will be ready and requests that the M.W. Grand Master be present and lay the cornerstone of the new Masonic temple on June 15th…..”

Report of District Deputy Grand Master, District No. 1 – May 1912

“….May 11, 1912 – Visited Temple Lodge, No. 33, Duncan. This Lodge is in splendid condition, and W. Brother Dwyer has his work well in hand….”

Source: Proceedings, Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M., of B.C., 1912, page 76

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 8 June 1912

“……A communication from Grand Lodge stating that it would afford the Grand Master much pleasure to lay the cornerstone of the new Masonic Temple on June 15th……..A communication from the Assessor of the City of Duncan stating that the value of part Lot 5 [Note: this is the land on which the Masonic temple is built] was $1,900.00….”

Here is the local newspaper report of the ceremony of laying the corner stone of our Duncan Masonic Temple on June 15th, 1912:

“Corner Stone of Masonic Temple Laid With Due Ceremony
—————-

The great Masonic function which was held in connection with the laying of the Foundation stone of the new Masonic temple on Saturday last, was carried through most successfully. Fortunately the day was brilliantly fine and the scene at the ceremony was one to be remembered, the bright blue and gold of the regalia of the officers of the various Lodges making a great show against the the dark clothes of the men present.

Shortly after two p.m., the Duncan Band assembled outside the Cowichan Merchants Building in readiness to take their places at the head of the procession. As the procession started on its way to the scene of the ceremony the Band was in the van followed by the representatives of the Municipal Council, the City Council, the Board of Trade and the Press, after them came the members of the craft lodges and the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge.

There was a large company of prominent Masons present from all over the province. Among them were: The Most Worshipful Grand Master, F.J. Burd, of Vancouver; P.G.M., W.K. Houston, of Victoria; P.G.M. H.H. Watson, M.P.P., who is also the Grand Treasurer; W. Gidley, Acting Deputy Grand Master, John M. Rudd, of Nanaimo, Grand Senior Warden; W. Henderson, of Victoria, Grand Junior Warden; C.G. Duncan and A. Campbell, of Vancouver, Acting Grand Deacons, I.W. Astley, of Vancouver, Grand Master of Ceremonies; S. Robinson, Grand Sword Bearer; E.B. McKay, Acting Grand Superintendent of Work; W.M. Dwyer, Acting Grand Marshal; J.H. Peterson, Acting Grand Secretary; A. Peterson, Acting Grand Pursuivant; E.J. Hearn and D. Stephenson, of Nanaimo, Acting Grand Stewards; A. Mitchell, Grand Tiler [sic]; and the Grand Chaplain, Rev. W.H. Fatt.

The ceremony was opened with a prayer by the Grand Chaplain, and after the singing of an ode, the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Senior and Junior Wardens tried the foundation stone with the proper instruments of Masonry, declared to the Grand Master that they found the stone to be “plumb, square and level and that the craftsmen had performed their work well.” Thereafter the proper officers scattered corn, wine and oil on the stone, symbolical of the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment and the oil of joy.

The Grand Treasurer placed within a cavity in the stone a sealed casket containing Canadian coins of the current year, copies of the Cowichan Leader, the Daily Colonist and the Daily Times, the list of members of the Duncan Masonic Lodge, a certified list of the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Duncan and other Masonic papers.

The Grand Orator of the occasion – Mr. H.H. Watson, M.P.P. – gave a most interesting and instructive address. He referred to the very ancient origin of the Freemasons’ order, which dated from the time of King Solomon, and spoke a few words as to the objects for which the order existed. The speaker stated that Freemasonry “was a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbol.” He said that he had been present some twelve years ago as Grand Master of B.C., when Temple Lodge had been instituted at Duncan, and he was glad to see the Lodge had prospered.

The ceremony came to an end with a prayer by the Grand Chaplain, and the company with their guests adjourned to the upper storey of the new Cowichan Merchants’ Block, where tea was served by the Ladies’ Guild of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The Mayor, Mr. Kenneth Duncan, welcomed the visitors to the city, and hoped they would enjoy their visit. A large number of the visiting Masons stayed over night at Duncan, and were present during the evening when Most Worshipful Grand Master F.J. Burd paid an official visit to Temple Lodge, Number 33.

The whole function was most successful and the ceremony was reverent and impressive throughout and a credit to the local Masonic Lodge.”

(Source: Cowichan Leader, 20 June 1912, pages 1,2 – from Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives collections)

Corner Stone Ceremony for the present day Duncan Masonic Temple, 15 June 1912. Mrs. Norcross' chicken coop is visible in the left rear.
Corner Stone Ceremony for the present day Duncan Masonic Temple, 15 June 1912. Mrs. Norcross’ chicken coop is visible in the left rear.

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 13 July 1912

“……Bills Presented:

From Samm & Cox for Cornerstone – $15.00
From W.H. Williamson, trowel – $19.50
From Duncan City Band – $30.00
From Ladies St. Andrews Guild, refreshments – $55.00

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 10 August 1912

“…..It was moved and carried: ‘that the Lodge vacate this hall [note: the rented rooms in the Duncan Emporium Building which Temple Lodge was using prior to the construction of the present Masonic Temple] and of services on October 1st next and the secretary notify Mrs. Smith [note: Mrs. Smith and her husband Harry Smith owned the premises rented by Temple Lodge prior to construction of the present Masonic Temple] to the effect.’……………..

It was moved and carried: ‘ that the Worshipful Master, Wor. Bros. Wm. Gidley and A. H. Peterson constitute a committee to procure suitable furniture for the new Masonic Temple…”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Communication, 14 September 1912

“………..A communication from Mrs. Smith for rent past due of the Lodge room, and also wishing the Lodge much success in the future………..

It was moved and carried: ‘that the letter notifying M.W. Grand Secretary that the new premises will be ready for occupancy after October 20th next, that we desire the Grand Master to dedicate the same, and we would be obliged if the M.W. Grand Master would inform us if he can do so on or after that date………..”

October 26, 1912 – Dedication of the Masonic Temple

“Masonic Function
——-
Temple Dedicated
——
Large Gathering At Banquet
——

The New Masonic Temple on Front Street [note: now called Canada Avenue] was formally opened and the Hall dedicated to Masonic purposes on Saturday last the 26th. The ceremony was performed by the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons of British Columbia, John M. Rudd, of Nanaimo, in the presence of a large number of officers and members of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia. At the conclusion of the ceremony of dedication by the Grand Lodge, the assembled brethren were guests of the brethren of Temple Lodge at a banquet which had been prepared by the Ladies Guild of St. Andrew’s. Worshipful Master W.M. Dwyer, of the local Lodge was in the chair, and welcomed the visiting brethren with a few well chosen words.

Among those present at the ceremony were: Immediate P.G.M. F.J. Burd, of Vancouver; Deputy G.M. Skay, of Kamloops; P.G.M. W.K. Houston, of Victoria, and H.N. Rich, of Ladner. Others present included Judge Harrison, of Victoria, John Stewart, of Ladysmith and the Hon. Abraham Smith, United States Consul at Victoria.

Letters of regret were received from the Premier, Sir Richard McBride, P.G.M. E.B. Paul; Very Worshipful P.G. Secretary, R.A. Brett and other eminent and distinguished Masons.”

(Source: Cowichan Leader, 31 October 1912, page 1 – from Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives collections)

Grand Master’s Report, 1913

“….October 26th, 1912, visited Temple Lodge No. 33, Duncan. Assisted by M.W. Bros. F.J. Burd, H.N. Rich, W.K. Houston and R.W. Bros. A.H. Skey and Eli Harrison, dedicated the new Masonic Temple in that city……….Jan. 11th, 1913, again visited Temple Lodge No. 33, Duncan, and assisted by M.W. Bro. Houston, R.W. Bros. W.F.C. Pope and Phillips and W. Bros. Manuel, installed the officers of this lodge……”

Source: Proceedings, Grand Lodge of B.C., & A.M., 1913, pages 22-23

Temple Lodge, Minute Book, 12 May 1914

“…It was moved by Wor. Bro. Dobson & seconded by Bro. Fawcett – that the letters from the City Clerk, re Trap doors in sidewalk & encroachments of building on the street – be referred to the Trustees for such action as they consider advisable…..The Motion was carried…..” [note: we do not currently know anything about trap doors in the sidewalk around our building or what encroachments are being referred to here.]

District Deputy Grand Master’s Report, 1920

“…….On January 13th, I had the honour to accompany Most Worshipful Bro. Willis, G.M., to Duncan, where the Officers of the Lodge were installed. Thirty-three Past Masters were present, including eleven from Victoria.

On May 11th, accompanied by a number of Brethren from Victoria, I again visited this Lodge and had the pleasure of seeing Worshipful Master Dykes and his Officers confer the Third Degree in the excellent manner in which is always looked for in this Lodge. A buffet supper was served after the ceremony.

The books and records of the Lodge are well kept and the meetings are well attended.

Owing to the absence of nearly forty per cent of its membership on active service, all of whose dues have been remitted [Note: Temple Lodge passed a resolution that Lodge members on active military service did not pay Lodge dues while on active wartime military service], the financial condition of the Lodge is not as flourishing as it might be, but this has not deterred the Lodge from attending to calls upon its charity and from keeping up a room in the local hospital. The outstanding dues are somewhat large and should receive more attention.

The Lodge owns its own building, but the amount of the outstanding debentures is large. It is hoped that with the return of the overseas Brethren means will be found to create a sinking fund to take care of these debentures……….

E.C. Hayward, D.D.G.M. No.1 District., Victoria, B.C., 2 June, 1920″

Source:Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of B.C., A.F. & A.M., 1920, page 49-50

District Deputy Grand Master’s Report, 1926

“I made a further official visit [to Temple Lodge] on the 4th May, 1926, and witnessed Worshipful Brother Gordon and his officers exemplify the third degree in a very dignified and impressive manner.

Temple Lodge is in a very prosperous condition, and they are to be congratulated this year on being able to retire a very considerable portion of the bonded indebtedness on their Temple……….

W.P. Marchant, D.D.G.M., District No. 1, Victoria”

Source:Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of B.C., A.F. & A.M., 1926, pages 69-70

District Deputy Grand Master’s Report, 1938

“…..The Lodge paid off its indebtedness on their Temple this year [1938] after twenty-six years of interest charges………

Stanley Gordon, D.D.G.M., District No. 1, Victoria”

Source:Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of B.C., A.F. & A.M., 1938, page 87

Lodge Minutes, Regular Meeting, 13 May 1941

“….W. Bro. Secretary presented Indefeasible Certificate of Title No. 96872-1 Land Registry, Victoria, B.C. Lot B Lot 5 Block 4 Section Seventeen Range Six Quamichan District Plan 2070. City of Duncan, B.C. Masonic Block.

W.M. ordered the Deed to be placed in Lodge Safety Deposit Box, Bank of Montreal, Duncan, B.C……”

Lodge Minutes, Regular Meeting, 9 September 1947

“….The W. Master then announced that many requests were being put forward to have changes and additions to the Lodge and Lodge furniture, and called for a discussion on the advisability of building a new Temple or of remodeling the present one.

After considerable discussion, which the Brethren entered with enthusiasm, giving their various views, Bro. Castley moving and Bro. Hammond seconding that figures be obtained on the cost of erecting a new Temple. After further discussion, Bro. Cummins moved and Bro. Homer seconded an amendment to the motion as follows:

That cost figures be obtained for a new Temple and also figures for remodeling the present Temple. The committee to obtain competent professional sources. The amendment on being put to the Brethren carried and the motion as amended carried.”

(Note: at this time we have not been able to find a record of the 1947 committee report. Suffice to say we are still using the original 1912 Duncan Masonic Temple building.)

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