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New Ulm Masonic Temple/Lodge closes after 147 years

Another chapter in New Ulm History ends

Left: 1892 sketch of Masonic Building shortly after third floor was added. The Masonic Lodge erected the third floor to the new brick building of Jacob Klossner Jr., and the law firm of John Lind/C.A. Hagberg. Right: A recent photo of Masonic Building.

On Aug 20, 2019, after 147 years, the New Ulm Masonic Temple/Lodge locked the doors for the last time to the Lodge Hall located on the 3rd floor of the Masonic Building, 13 ¬Ω North Minnesota Street… closing another chapter in New Ulm’s history. Freemasonry remains the world’s oldest and largest fraternal organization, but smaller lodges like New Ulm have found it difficult to attract new members.

According to the New Ulm Masonic Lodge documents, Charity (Masonic) Lodge No. 98, A.F. & A.M. (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons) was organized under dispensation of the Grand Master of Minnesota, in the directors room of the Brown County Bank at 2 North Minnesota Street, New Ulm, Minnesota, March 26, 1872. The Lodge was granted its charter Jan. 15, 1873.

Dr. Albert Marden, a New Ulm dentist, was named as the first worshipful master and held that position until 1893. Henry Subilia was to be senior warden, and Frank Shaubut was to serve as junior warden. Other meetings after the Brown County Bank were held on May 20 and 21, 1872, in the four upper rooms of the home of Henry Subilia, 504 South Minnesota Street. The next meeting, June 3, 1872, was held in the second story of Turner Hall, and on Nov. 12, 1872, a committee agreed to use the rear of Dr. Carl Weschcke’s office at 125 North Minnesota Street for its meetings. Dr. Weschcke’s location was used until the July 15, 1881, when a tornado destroyed the downtown area. The Lodge meetings were quickly moved to Dr. Marden’s office at 101 North Minnesota Street while Dr. Weschcke’s building was rebuilt.

On June 2, 1891, almost ten years after the 1881 tornado, the members of the Masonic Lodge unanimously accepted an offer from Jacob Klossner Jr., and the law firm of John Lind/C. A. Hagberg by which the Masonic Lodge would be allowed to erect and own a third story of their new brick building. Funds for this project were raised by issuing bonds in amount of $25 earning 6 percent interest. The New Ulm Review newspaper of June 3, 1891, stated: “THE NEW MASONIC BLOCK. It Will be Three Stories High, and have a Frontage of Eighty-five Feet. The Masonic Hall in the Third Story will be the Finest Outside the Cities.” The new Masonic Lodge/Hall was ready for occupancy on Jan. 5, 1892, and occupied the entire third floor, 85×50 feet. It was divided into a main hall, 60×80 feet, a banquet room, 50×20 feet, three reception rooms, an anteroom, a kitchen and eight closets.

The Royal Arch Masons, Order of the Eastern Star, and DeMolay Commandery all shared the facilities of the Masonic Temple/Lodge at one time or another.

Above: One of many stained-glass windows facing Minnesota Street from the third floor of the Masonic Lodge. This window contains the Masonic symbol showing the square and compass with the letter “G” in the center.

In October, 1965, a joint meeting was arranged between St. Patrick’s Council No. 1076, Knights of Columbus. The meeting was intended to create better relations between those of the Masonic Order and the Knights of Columbus.

Thereafter, annual joint meetings were held. In June 1970, a tradition of holding an annual family picnic between the Masons and the Knights of Columbus was started and continued for many years.

Also in 1970, the Masonic membership wanted a new Masonic Temple/Lodge, and appointed a building committee to seek a building site. One year later, during a 1971 meeting, the Lodge membership received word that Mrs. Oleta McCuskey was willing to donate 8 acres of land at Cottonwood and Butternut Streets to build a new Masonic Temple/Lodge. The Lodge membership agreed to accept the gift, but nothing became of the idea… probably a good idea. Six years later, April 1976, the third floor was returned/passed on to the present building owners.

Over the next several decades a membership of over 200 declined through attrition, competitive recruitment by other fraternal organizations, and lack of interest to join any organization. Insurance, utilities, and taxes became increasingly expensive, and it became more difficult for members to attend meetings on the third floor of the Masonic Hall.

By the end of last year, the New Ulm Masonic membership dropped to 32 members. After much discussion and consternation, it was decided to discontinue the New Ulm Masonic Lodge in New Ulm, and merge with Sibley Lodge No. 209.

One of the three large frames containing early photos of New Ulm Masonic Temple/Lodge members. One other large frames contained early photos of Order of Eastern Star members, and another large frame contained early photos of more Masonic Temple/Lodge members.

Other Masonic Lodges were contacted to distribute the existing New Ulm Masonic regalia, and most of the remaining furniture and miscellaneous items were sold. All of the organizational documents were given to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, A.F. & A.M. Three large frames contained over 300 professional photographs of past local members of the fraternal organizations. Thanks largely to New Ulm Masonic Lodge Members Pat Kearney, secretary-treasurer, and Stephen Larson, worshipful master, the member portraits, along with other local historic items, remain in New Ulm. The third floor of the New Ulm Masonic Temple/Lodge is now empty.

This is a brief overview of the New Ulm Masonic Lodge … On Aug. 20, 2019, after 147 years, the New Ulm Masonic Lodge locked its doors for the last time, closing another chapter in New Ulm’s history.

Two interior views of New Ulm Masonic Temple/Lodge showing the Main Hall.

Two interior views of New Ulm Masonic Temple/Lodge showing the Main Hall.

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