Oxford’s Masonic Lodge turns 200: Celebration planned to raise funds for school playground

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

At the corner of South Main Street and East High Street stands one of Oxford’s oldest institutions. It’s not Skyline Chili or Juniper, though. It’s the Masonic Lodge that sits above them.

This year, Oxford’s Masonic Lodge No. 67 is celebrating its 200-year anniversary. For the organization’s members, those 200 years include charity, expansion and a devastating fire.

At a city council meeting last week, Oxford Mayor Bill Snavely declared June 17 Oxford Masonic Day to honor that history. The lodge is hosting a car and bike show 10 a.m.–4 p.m. to raise money to support Kramer Elementary School’s plans for a new playground to celebrate its bicentennial.

Celebrating 200 years by giving back

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Lodge member Mike Hodge has been coordinating the car and bike show, originally planned as a small celebration. Two months ago, Stephanie Pearson, a third-grade teacher at Kramer, reached out to ask if the lodge could help raise money for the playground, and Hodge couldn’t say no.

“It’s been very hectic to say the least, trying to get donors, the trophies, expand everything from the footprint that we were originally doing this in to now shutting down High Street, Main Street [and] the parks,” Hodge said.

Kramer needs $38,000 to replace its current playground equipment, which isn’t up to code. After expenses from the city to pay off parking meters for the day, fund police and park staff and other fees, the event will cost the lodge $3,710. Because of the cost, Hodge said they’re relying on donors and partnerships with local businesses to be able to turn a profit and donate to the playground fund. In addition to cars and bikes, the event will feature food trucks and local musicians.

Pearson said the idea to improve the playground started with her students, who she teaches through project-based learning. When one of her friends heard about the students’ efforts, he suggested that the lodge could make them the beneficiaries of the car and bike show.

“One of my students changed her birthday party so that she could be here the day of the event to help ... These kids are still very much involved, and I’m in contact with parents to keep them involved in the process,” Pearson said.

A history of charity

The car and bike show is by no means the first charitable cause Oxford’s freemasons have lent their support to, but it is one of their most front-facing.

“We’re actually excited to do something where we get to get out in the community and kind of show our presence in the community, where typically it’s just receiving letters and writing checks,” Hodge said.

Hodge said the lodge has seen a lot of support for the event. The positive feedback from the community goes against wide-ranging conspiracies about the freemasons, which Hodge said are made up. Instead, the organization focuses on bettering its members and the community as a whole. The Oxford lodge’s past charitable work includes helping fund laptops for high school students and McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital’s van for seniors.

Credit: George Hoxie Collection at Smith Library of Regional History

Credit: George Hoxie Collection at Smith Library of Regional History

The lodge’s history isn’t just filled with charity. In 1971, a fire destroyed the top floor of the previous building. Stanley Meyer, a deputy chief of the Hamilton Fire Department, was killed when part of the building fell in the blaze. At the time, the Oxford Press called it “the worst uptown fire in history.”

In 1974, the new Masonic Building was completed in its place, with the lodge on the second floor and space for two tenants below. Today, the lodge owns the entire building and rents out the commercial space to tenants.

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