There are 150 reasons why the Gainesville Masonic Lodge was chosen as this year’s Lodge of the Year.
"There aren’t many lodges in Georgia that have been around for 150 years," said G.W. Adams, worshipful master of Gainesville Lodge.
Members of the century- and-a-half-old lodge gathered together with their sister organization, the Order of the Eastern Star, to celebrate a very special birthday Thursday night.
The Order of the Eastern Star, which celebrated 63 years in Gainesville Thursday night, held a dinner to honor the birthday of the 150-year-old-lodge.
The lodge has been through countless worshipful masters over 150 years, had a woman member once, and occupied at least two buildings.
The Gainesville lodge received its charter in 1857, and was located in the upstairs of what is now Burton’s retail store in downtown Gainesville.
During the American Civil War, Gainesville Lodge became one of the only Masonic lodges to admit a woman. In 1863, a Mason who was also a Confederate captain asked the lodge to accept his wife as a member when he left for the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Burton’s building burned, and in 1962, the Gainesville Mason’s moved to their current Longview Drive Lodge.
aAdams said the lodge had been through some tough times through the years.
"But we’ve really rallied in the last couple of years," Adams said.
The 240-member lodge accepted 12 new members in the past 12 months, and has two prospective members. The added members defy drops in Masonic membership across the nation. According to Masonic-Lodges.com, Lodge membership totals have dropped to all-time lows in the past few years after reaching an all-time high after World War II.
But Norma Rainey, worthy matron of Gainesville’s Order of the Eastern Star, said numbers are dropping in membership for the 63 year-old Order. Currently the Order has 93 members
Rainey printed pamphlets about the Order for the birthday celebration in an effort to recruit the wives of some of the Masons and the Masons in attendance.
"We’re trying to generate some interest," Rainey said.
Women of the Order must be related to a Master Mason in good standing. But Mason’s can also hold an office in the Order. In fact, the Order must have at least two members that are Mason’s in order to be a legitimate chapter.
Rainey said the recent decline in membership is due to the changes in American society.
"These days, women have many things to occupy their time," Rainey said. "They just don’t have time for this anymore."
The pamphlet lists the number of local, state and national charities that the Order supports, and advertises the social opportunities that the Order offers.
This year, the Order is supporting the Sonrise Camp, a Christian-based camp that uses animals for healing of special needs children and adults as well as nursing home residents. This week, the Order will hold a Thanksgiving dinner for the Camp.
"It really is a beautiful organization," Rainey said.