Bakersfield Masonic Lodge

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The laying of a cornerstone may not seem like much of an occasion to some, but it only seems fitting that when the Masonic Lodge on 18th Street started the building process, it brought attention far and wide.

“May this temple be a home of nourishment for the poor, the weary and the heavy laden…May it be a place of joy for eyes dimmed with tears, for hearts towed down by grief, for the distressed in body and mind…May it stand for generations yet to be, immune from fire and shock, welcoming to its fraternal hospitality the Masons of California and all lands,” Senator Samuel M. Shortridge proclaimed at the 1924 ceremony.

Bakersfield Masonic Lodge

Bakersfield Masonic Lodge

His words seemed to have been a sort of blessing for the temple, which still stands in all its grandeur to this day. Dale St. Claire, the general secretary for the Bakersfield Scottish Rite, revealed that the history of masonry in Bakersfield began the very same year that our fair city was incorporated. “Masonry had its start in 1873 with the Bakersfield Lodge 224. The first temple was on Chester Avenue back in the good old days.” Fire laid the structure to waste in 1889, but the current building—the one which Senator Shortridge so proudly spoke of—was ready for occupancy in 1926.

As an article in The Bakersfield Californian hailed it as “one of the most solemn and spiritually significant occasions in the history of Masonry in Kern County…More than one thousand spectators thronged the scene.” Not everyone understood why such a marvelous structure was being erected, however, and to this, Henry A. Jastro (another speaker at the ceremony and Mason) explained, “We have in this city today about 700 members in the Blue lodges and a little over a thousand members in the lodges throughout the county…So while this building seems large, I predict that with the growth of our county there will be but a few years pass by when another and, I hope, a more elaborate temple will have to be built.”

Perhaps the men would be pleased with the Lodge’s (and the many other affiliates) ability to uphold the high standards laid for it so many years ago, as they have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable funds over the years. From children’s hospitals to cancer research, the “cornerstone of character” is still, to this day, a place offering refuge and peace to those who need it the most.

Photos Courtesy of Chris Brewer

Article appeared in our 31-4 Issue – October 2014

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