Looking Back: Memories of another time and a special building

The former Masonic Temple, located near the Lynnwood Convention Center. (Photo by Betty Lou Gaeng)

Personal memories

As the years pass, it seems inevitable that Lynnwood’s old buildings will all disappear and only memories of another time will be left to us. Recently, when I walked by the red-brick building pictured here and saw that it was for sale, I could not help but wonder if this historic building would soon become the victim of the city’s ongoing development.

Located near the Lynnwood Convention Center, just north of 196th Street, on what was once part of the North Trunk road system, it is the last historical structure to remain on the land that was the hub of the little village of Alderwood Manor. With its location near the City Center of Lynnwood, can it possibly survive, or will another more modern building, or even condos, replace it? Yes, I do know that with Lynnwood’s rapid growth, it is the development of the land that has become important, not old seemingly obsolete buildings. Sometimes, nostalgia is not enough to save the old structures.

Just like me, this old building has seen better days. However, when I look at it, I remember a long-ago time when it was the Masonic Temple and still held a sparkle of newness. Within its 12,500-square-foot space, it had meeting rooms, an auditorium, a stage, a kitchen, a large dining hall and even a dance floor. Built in 1921, the Masonic Temple became more than the home of the local Masonic Fraternal Order; for many years, it was considered the entertainment center of the small farming community of Alderwood Manor.

One of my very best memories is of mid-winter of 1933 when I was in the first grade at nearby Alderwood Manor Grade School. Dressed in a crepe paper costume my mother had made for me, I played a small Brownie, a mystical figure from folklore, in the school’s Christmas play. That year, our school still had no auditorium or stage; thus, important school events were held at the nearby Masonic Temple. To a young girl who lived on an isolated chicken farm, it was an awesome building.

By the 1933 Christmas season, the entire country had experienced one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Unemployment had reached an all-time record high of over 25 percent. Many families in the Alderwood Manor community were struggling just to survive–most had little money for extras. Following the school’s presentation mentioned above, a Christmas party was held and a prominent Alderwood Manor businessman, dressed as Santa Claus and on behalf of other businessmen of the town, handed out stockings filled with an assortment of toys and treats for the children.

In our present day, whenever I pass by this very familiar old building, and even though it hasn’t been the Masonic Temple for many years, I remember the good times and how important this building had once been to the community.

William Morrice and Masonic Temple cornerstone 1921 (Photo courtesy the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association)

History of Robert Burns Masonic Lodge No. 243

In the fall of 1920, a few years after the Puget Mill Company of Port Gamble, Wash., established its planned community of Alderwood Manor, a group of neighborhood men, all members of the Masonic Order, gathered together at the general store which was then known as the Main Store. L. E. Moffat, the store’s proprietor, was another Masonic member. The men held several informal meetings with the purpose of forming a local Masonic Club.

In order to finalize their plans, on February 8, 1921, eight of the men held their first formal organizational meeting in the Community Hall at the Puget Mill Demonstration Farm, located on Poplar Way–where the Lynnwood Jaguar Dealership is today. First known as the Alderwood Manor Masonic Club, its first membership meeting was also held at the same location on March 1, 1921.

Later, at a special meeting on March 29, a letter from the Puget Mill Company was read. The letter informed the men that a deed for Lot 11, Block 2, Alderwood Manor, was being prepared with a stipulation that the exterior construction of any building to be built on the land should be of brick or brick veneer. The property had already been purchased by three of the men, at no expense to the club. At this meeting, the club was also given its official name–Robert Burns Lodge No. 243, F. & A.M. of Washington; named for the famed Scottish poet.

Incidentally, Mr. Moffat’s community general store mentioned above, once a neighbor of the Masonic Temple, in 1933 became Herman Wickers’ general store, as well as his family home. In 1993, after its forced closure to make way for a highway overpass, this 1919 Tudor Revival-style brick building from Alderwood Manor’s past was purchased by the City of Lynnwood.

A few years later, at Heritage Park on Poplar Way in Lynnwood, it was restored and the building’s historical significance is now preserved by the city. Known as the Wickers Building, its first floor houses the Snohomish County Visitors Information Center and the Northwest Veterans Museum. On the second floor, where the family once made their home, you can view memorabilia from the family and local history at the Wickers Museum. Wickers Museum is maintained by Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association (LAMHA), its neighbor at Heritage Park.

Building the Masonic Temple

On April 11, 1921 at a formal Masonic ceremony, the ground was broken for the building of the proposed Masonic Temple. Without any cost to the lodge, the excavation and the foundation for the building was completed by local residents, and on May 8, 1921, the cement cornerstone was put in place. The cement block used as the cornerstone had been obtained from the recently razed Boston Block in Seattle. William Morrice, a founding member of the lodge, removed the cement block to a barn on his property–where Alderwood Mall is located today. Under his guidance, the date and pertinent information regarding the lodge’s establishment was chiseled on the cornerstone.

According to a 1971 history of Robert Burns Lodge No. 243, William Morrice, was considered a strong force behind the lodge’s establishment. He had become a member of the Masonic Order in his hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland. Actually, by trade, he was a stone mason.

Under the supervision lodge member Thomas (Tom) Rogers, other local craftsmen-members, with the assistance of Puget Mill Company, constructed the 48 by 80-foot three-story building in record time. Having been a superintendent for a large national construction company out of New York, Tom Rogers, had very good credentials to qualify as the supervisor for this building project.

By May 26, 1921, the exterior of the building had been completed and the roof was almost finished. In addition to the brick veneer exterior, 84,000 feet of lumber had been used in the construction. The lumber had been donated by the Hackett Mill Company of Cedar Valley and the Alderwood Manor Lumber Company. The original wiring for the building was done by resident Peter Tutmark, owner of an electrical business in Alderwood Manor. Although the building was still only a shell, the interior incomplete, the men began holding their meetings in their new building. The charter for the lodge was issued on June 15, 1921.

Completing the work of building did have some setbacks. One major blow to finishing the construction happened in October of 1921, when a strong windstorm blew away the materials from the still not-quite-finished roof.

A good share of the expense of building the Temple was in the form of donations; however, in order to complete final touches to the building and its interior, the Grand Lodge made a sizeable monetary loan to the Alderwood Manor Robert Burns Lodge, which was secured by a mortgage on the Temple building. Also, there were some other expenses made which added to the size of the mortgage. In 1946, the Masons and Eastern Star members paid the loan off and were able to burn the mortgage papers. Following the burning of the mortgage, the floor was cleared for a dance party to celebrate the occasion.

Through the years, remodeling and additions to both the exterior and interior of the building were made, including an improvement to the lighting system. Furnishings and appliances were added or replaced in the interior of the Temple building as needed. In 1936 a free in-need-of-repair older model furnace was installed to replace the pot-bellied wood stoves that had been the only sources of heat in the building since its beginning. In 1948, the furnace was replaced by a newer one. Because of the larger furnace in the basement, the size of the basement was increased. Finally, in early 1971, an elevator was purchased from the former Prudential Mutual Savings Bank in Seattle. Dismantled and transported to what was by now Lynnwood, it was installed in the Masonic Temple building.

In 1955, Robert Burns Masonic Order purchased the land just south and adjacent to its building to be used as a parking lot.

The Masonic Building hosted countryside entertainment and other events

Following the men’s lead, Alderwood Chapter No. 185, Order of the Eastern Star was organized by the ladies of the community. They held their first meeting in the Temple on November 4, 1921, and the organization became official on June 23, 1922.

With an aim to bring culture and a brightness to a somber and struggling community, the ladies of the Eastern Star immediately initiated dancing parties and movies. To add to the enjoyment of the entertainment, an organ was purchased. Since the closest movie threater was in Edmonds–miles away over rough roads, both adults and children were more than pleased to be able to attend the movies at the Temple building during the 1920s and 1930s. Some of those very well-attended movies included Our Gang comedies and many Hollywood thrillers starring big-name actors and actresses of the time. A big event for the men was the showing of the July 21, 1927, Dempsey-Sharkey world heavy-weight boxing match from Yankee Stadium in New York. In addition, the Temple’s auditorium and stage became the showcase for the children of Alderwood Manor Grade School to entertain local residents with their musical and acting talents.

After first holding services in private homes starting in 1919, Alderwood Manor Community Church began renting space in the Masonic Temple for their church services and Sunday school classes. This arrangement continued for a few years, until the church was able to complete their own building–directly east of the Temple.

In 1929, in order to lessen the financial burden for the maintenance of the Temple building, an agreement was entered between the Masonic Lodge and the Eastern Star members to share the expenses and ownership of the building.

Through the years, other organizations rented space in the Temple for their meetings, including: the Alderwood Garden Club, the Boy Scouts of America, American Legion Post 90 and its auxiliary, the Library Club, the Townsend Club, Washington Co-op, Ladies Aid, WWI Veterans, Christian Science Society, and the School District #15 Dramatic Club. In addition, during its early years in the 1990s, Alderwood Manor Heritage Association held some of its meetings in the Masonic Temple building.

An unknown future for a historic building

In the busy more modern times, just as it has happened to many organizations, with declining membership and progressively sky-rocketing costs for upkeep, the remaining members of Robert Burns Masonic Lodge #243, realized in 1998 that they would have to sell their Temple building and property.

Purchased in April of 2000 by the Vietnamese Christian Church, the old Masonic Temple building has been home to the Vietnamese Alliance Church of Lynnwood since that time.

Now for sale by the church, this 97-year-old building, a symbol of a small farming community from the last century, faces an unknown future.

 — By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Lou Gaeng is a long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. She researches and writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood and Edmonds. She is also a member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board

  1. Thanks, Betty Lou, for the wonderful walk down Memory Lane. Yes, all things change. I wonder how many people understand the meaning of the word Brownie as you used it the 4th paragraph. I haven’t heard or read it in that context in ages.

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