Updates to Albert Pike Lodge funded by $35,000 state heritage grant
by Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers
In May, the Hopkins Historical Society announced plans to move into anew location at the Albert Pike Lodge on Mainstreet, thanks to the local Freemason chapter’s generous donation of the building. Now, thanks to a recent $35,000 grant to the city on behalf of the historical society, those plans can begin to become reality.
“We’re very fortunate and very grateful to the Masons and to the city,” said Nora Davis, a board member of the historical society.
The lodge was built in 1901 for the local chapter of the Freemasons, one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the country.
The Hopkins chapter was one of the largest in the area, to the point where the original building, with its entryway and main chambers, wasn’t large enough to support the quantity of people attending.
“At one point they had over 500 members. It was one of the more popular lodges and it got a little tight in here,” Davis said.
As the lodge’s membership grew, so did the building, expanding to include second-floor space as well as a large basement, fully furnished with industrial-sized kitchen.
“The new addition made room for social events and for meals — there were a lot of meals,” Davis said.
Over the years, many distinguished members of the Hopkins community were involved with the Masons, she added, making it a beacon for local history buffs.
The guest register of the lodge, left for the historical society to claim along with the building, contains names dating as far back as 1900, and features recognizable figures from throughout the past 100 years.
“I absolutely fell in love with this book,” Davis said.
In evaluating the building, members of the historical society team uncovered countless other antiques that remained in the building from the lodge’s long history.
“When they closed this particular lodge, they left a lot behind,” Davis said.
In the main room, many of the original artifacts of the Masonic meetings remain.
Strong symbolism and ritual can be found in many of the objects, such as ornate pendants worn by the lodge’s officers, and even in the chairs, lecterns and other accoutrements of the meeting space.
“It’s an amazing place,” Davis said. “It takes a long time to soak it all in. … There’s such a rich history and tradition, everything has meaning. It just blows my mind.”
Much of the symbolism stems from the Freemason’s history dating back to the Middle Ages and coming to represent a visionary and progressive group boasting such members as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill.
“Education was very much a part of becoming a Mason,” Davis said. “This was not a place to come and relax — there was a lot to study and a lot to learn.”
The lodge’s namesake, Pike was credited with writing the Scottish Rites of the Freemasons; many other lodges around the country are named after Pike.
The lodge also supported other organizations including another Masonic group, the Unizar Lodge, and the Order of the Eastern Star, an adjunct Masonic organization open to men and women, although less is known about those organizations.
In the early 20th century, the lodge enjoyed a prominent place on Hopkins Mainstreet, but as years went by it was quickly surrounded by the growing community of downtown Hopkins.
“They built right up to the edges of the Lodge,” Davis said, pulling aside a curtain to show a window looking directly onto a wall of concrete blocks.
While the Albert Pike Lodge was an important center for the community in decades past, interest in the Masons eventually ebbed and membership began to decline, Davis said. As the ranks of the Hopkins Masons lessened, the group’s leadership decided the time had come to move on from the lodge. However, the leaders knew such a distinguished building couldn’t simply be sold for demolition; they instead offered it to the city, and the historical society, at a heavy discount. Proceeds from the building’s sale were donated to local charities and other community organizations.
“This Masonic Lodge was always known for their commitment to community and their generosity,” Davis said. “The Masons here had a vision — this building was assessed at $600,000, but it went to the historical society and the city.”
Davis said that part of the Mason’s vision was for the lodge to continue educating residents about this history of the Freemasons and their role in the Hopkins community. “This was a wonderful legacy for them,” she said. “There’s a lot of mystery about Masons.”
Although the building is in good shape and retains much of its former glory, Davis added that much work remains to transform it into the Hopkins History Center.
On behalf of the historical society, the city applied for and received a $35,000 grant from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society. The cost of the historical structure report and related consultant’s fees will be $40,000, with the historical society providing the remaining $5,000.
“We were absolutely delighted,” Davis said of the grant.
Hopkins Mayor Molly Cumming expressed her enthusiasm for the new history center at the Dec. 6 City Council meeting.
“This is really the foundation for kicking off all your efforts, and you’ve put so much time and so much energy and effort into getting to this point,” she said. “These are exciting times. The city is very committed to preserving our history.”
Members of the historical society are currently working on submitting a request for proposals for a required historic structure report, to determine the state of the building.
“It’s a good idea to know what you’re dealing with in the building,” Davis said. “There are a lot of unknowns.”
The report will assess the steps required to make the building museum-ready, including how to create the proper climate to preserve historic items and updating the facility for Americas with Disabilities Act compliance.
It is not yet clear what the full extent of upgrades and remodeling will be, she added.
“We have a lot to learn, yet, so we’re taking things in steps,” Davis said.
A large amount of additional funding will be required throughout the rest of the project, and the historical society seeks donations as well as other sources of funding. To get involved or learn more, visit hopkinshistory.org.
Meanwhile, Davis said, every journey into the building continues to reveal more about the long history of Hopkins throughout the years.
“This is a beautiful building. I continue to be awed by what I find and see and learn here,” she said. “It’s just a treasure trove.”
Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]