The Windsor Masonic Temple, A Historical and Architectural Gem, Celebrates 100 Years
Built in 1921, for 100 years the beautiful Windsor Masonic Temple has remained for the people of Windsor and Essex a place of friendship, fellowship, brotherhood, and community.
It is a historical and architectural gem. It is also home to the Scottish Rite Learning Centre for Children with Dyslexia, the Masonic Order of Rainbow (Youth Group), seven Masonic Lodges, Masonic “Rites” coffee and breakfast clubs, and numerous social functions.
Since 1854 (and in Essex County since 1804). At the start of the 20th century, Masons recognized the need for a first-class Masonic and Community home. In 1913, Masons purchased the land on which the Masonic Temple sits.
Due to the intervention of World War One, Masons delayed construction till 1921. In April 1921, in a ceremony attended by over a thousand community members and the Border Cities Pipe Band, Windsor’s oldest Mason Bro. James Radcliffe “turned the first sod” at the Masonic Temple site.
The Mayor and numerous dignitaries also attended. The Windsor Star described it as a “Red Letter Day in the history of Free Masonry in [and] the Border Cities.” “Rev. D. W. Collins referred to the traditions of the Masonic Order, which dated back to the dim past when the world had its first great temple-a temple which meant a great deal to the world,” just as the Windsor Masonic Temple would mean a great deal to Windsor and Essex.
Subsequently, in July 1921, hundreds of Masons gathered to see our M. W. Grand Master conduct a cornerstone ceremony (a Masonic Ceremony marking special buildings). Crowds gathered to witnessed a ceremony which would “go down in history of the Border Cities.”
He stated: “Masonry teaches the lesson of universality. Some organizations are inclined to be narrow, but the Masonic order seeks to crush out prejudice and to set up a high standard of morals for its members to keep before them.” Masons come from all faiths and nationalities.
The “noble edifice” was built as a community and Masonic home. As the Windsor Star noted: “Everyman is the better for a home. [Who] does not feel a thrill as he crosses his own threshold. The same is true of the Masonic Order. I am sure every Mason will feel he is a better Mason because of what he has done towards making this Temple a reality.”
Subsequently, in January 1922, the Windsor Masonic Temple officially opened with banquet and installation ceremonies. Prominent members of both Ontario and Michigan attended.
The Windsor Star described the Masonic Temple as: “[m]odern in every respect and built after plans prepared by J.C. Pennington, Windsor architect [and Mason], the new building is practically complete…It is one of the finest in the country and reflects credit upon the contractors, Muxlow & Gale.”
The Windsor Star also noted the “spacious dining hall.” Over the next 100 years, this dining hall would host hundreds of dances, weddings, and social functions. Per the Windsor Star: “[t]he ground floor of the temple boasts a banqueting hall 45 by 72 ft. It is handsomely furnished with plaster of paris and can be reached from the main entrance without interfering with work which may be in progress in other parts of the building. The floor will be of polished maple and it is proposed to use the big apartment for dances. It will be available to any organization…[t]he ventilating system is of the latest design and is considered the most efficient in the city.”
The Temple cost $200,000 ($2,736,000 CAD in 2020). Since 1921, the Masonic Temple has been a cornerstone of Windsor, Essex County, and Detroit life. In 2020, this writer posted Masonic Temple pictures on the Social Media Facebook Pages “Windsor History” and “If You Grew-Up in Windsor, You Remember…”
The posts received over 250 “likes” or “hearts” and several comments (I have included some of them below):
— “We held our wedding reception there in 2013. It was utterly fantastic on every level — gorgeous space and the staff was great to work with” — “The Masonic Learning Center is located on the top floor. Helps children with learning differences primarily dyslexia. The program is nothing short of amazing!!! They have the graduation ceremonies for the children in a “chamber” on the 2nd floor. It was stunningly beautiful. All wood and so ornate. They are such a wonderful organization helping those in need, especially children. All volunteer. Most of the lodges amalgamated with the one on Ouellette because there are fewer and fewer members. Great group of men.
— “There were great dances there every sat. Night in the 50's.”
— “My Dad’s 60 year Mason medal. I attended the ceremony when he was awarded that. It was quite the big deal. [Jim Laughton] of Windsor, who resided in Walkerville, poured his heart and soul into the restoration of that building.”
— “Spent many Saturday night there dancing to the Bill Richardson orchestral. Great fun.”
— “Have rented the hall there! Nice building!”
— “A group of us girls used to go to the Sunday evening dances at the Masonic Temple back in the day. We enjoyed dancing to the music of the live bands. Some of us met boyfriends at the Masonic Temple. Also, my sister’s wedding reception was held there almost 50 years ago.”
— “The Masonic Temple played a big part in my family’s life. My Dad was a Mason, so he was over there quite a bit. And we would go to the Bingos every Wednesday night. My wedding reception was there in Dec. 1973. Yes, the Masonic Temple brings back many happy memories for me.”
— “My Dad was a Mason and a Shriner, attended many dances there when I was a teenager and Mansion functions as well!”
— “I sure remember the dances!”
— “Met my wife there …”
— “My graduation dance from nursing school was held there”
— “PCI used to have our annual prom dances there & if I remember correctly with Bill Richardson’s orchestra”
— “My parents met there in the ‘50’s”
— “My parents went to dances there in the early 40's.”
— “My wedding reception was there in 1965”
— “Bill richardson’s orchestra played there for dances every Saturday night in the winter. I was the singer with the band under the name of Christy Allin. We moved the dances to the pavilion in Jackson Park in the summer.”
— “Many great memories there!”
— “Had my wedding reception there in 1987”
— “I hardly ever missed a Saturday evening ! Great music, great friends.” — “was at a dance in this building the night of the Detroit riot”
— “Had my wedding reception there in 69…….”
— “I went to the dances in the 80’s. Good times, great music.”
— “Loved the dances and live orchestra!”
— “I remember packing Christmas Hampers with my dad and other Mason’s there.”
— “I remember the rainbow girls having their ceremonies there in the fifties. Good memories [see Youth Involvement section]”
During World War Two, Windsor Masons packed food hampers for those living in London and suffering under Air Strikes and acted as a scrap metal depot for the war effort. Also during World War Two, Windsor Masons paid a tribute (at the Masonic Temple) to President (and Mason) Bro. F. D. Roosevelt, upon his passing.
The Masonic Temple was also home to vaccination clinics. In 1958, then Prime Minister (and Masonic Brother) John Diefenbaker visited the Windsor Masonic Temple. Numerous Windsor Mayors and City Officials have called the Temple Home, including Bro. Bert Weeks (Windsor Mayor 1975–1982). Windsor’s current Mayor’s Grandfather also called the Temple home.
In 2017, the Windsor Masonic Temple hosted an Open House, in part to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Masonry. As our District Deputy explained: “It’s also to invite people in to understand what we do and who we are,” said Dan Chamney, district deputy grand master for Essex County. “We’re trying to make society better as we pass through it. A lot of what we do is charitable work.”
In 2017, the Temple also organized a Cornerstone Ceremony to honour all those civil servants who would work at the new Windsor City Hall, subsequently completed in 2018.
As the Press noted: “Dilkens [Mayor] greeted Ontario’s Grand Master of Freemasons, Paul Todd, along with Masonic members from Windsor-Essex, Ontario, Michigan and Ohio.”
The City of Windsor recognizes the Windsor Masonic Temple as a heritage property. It is designed in the neo-classical style, with oak and maple finishes, marble steps, and terrazzo floors.
It features gorgeous paintings, and views that reach the Ambassador Bridge 3.5km away! More information here! The temple added accessibility modifications, including an elevator for those with mobility impairments, and a microphone/speaker system for those with hearing impairments. The Masonic Temple also updated WiFi services, computer/work stations, and multimedia services for membership and guests.
The Temple embraces social media, with the hashtag #windsormasonictemple and #squareandcompass, and social media “check-ins.”
The Masonic Temple has hosted numerous musical acts, including Canadian Rock Legends the Mudmen, the Bill Richardson Orchestra, and local musical acts who completed a rendition of the Masonic Parting Song: “the Parting Glass.”
Since 2004/5, the Windsor Masonic Temple has been home to the Scottish Rite Learning Centre for Children with Dyslexia (one of nine in Canada). The Learning Centre tutors children (for free), using the “Orton-Gillingham” approach to successfully help children learn to read and write. Children attend twice a week for one hour, in a one-to-one session with a trained tutor who provides individually planned lessons.
Masons also volunteer, by supervising the site and providing refreshments for family members. All volunteers have completed criminal record checks, and all tutor/child interactions are monitored. See below for some “success stories” from those involved with the Scottish Rite Learning Centre:
Parent — “when our daughter first started at the Learning Centre, she was in a special education class at school. Her teacher was telling us that this would continue through to high school. She was working approximately 2 grade levels below her age level. After one year in the program she is now out of the special education class and attends the regular class at her appropriate grade level. She still gets learning support but the centre has definitely changed her whole learning experience.”
Classroom teacher — “since beginning your reading programme (child) has not only shown improvement in reading and writing skills, but also has improved in independent work and a willingness to try new activities. He is also beginning to show leadership skills and on several occasions has helped his classmates with their work after completing his own. I believe that this improvement in (child’s) overall experience of school is a result of his work in your programme and thank you graciously.
Volunteer — “This evening, I had my batteries charged when I heard a student reading to the teacher. That made my day and has given me the direction to want to do more for this good project.”
The Learning Centre holds a graduation ceremony, each year, for those students who have completed the program. The ceremony is held at the Windsor Masonic Temple “Blue Lodge Room,” and is attended by the students, tutors, Masons, and local government officials.
Another facet of the Temple’s “youth involvement” is the Rainbow Girls program, a masonic youth program for young women. The program is dedicated to teaching its members the importance of volunteerism and community involvement, along with Charity. It teaches “leadership through community service.”
In 2018 and 2019, the Temple hosted the Christmas Elves Annual Christmas Dinner. The Temple will again host the Dinner in 2020. The Elves Christmas Dinner “ provides gifts and food for the homeless.”
In 2018, Temple stepped-up and assisted the Elves in finding a new home. -From 2018 Iheart Radio: “Organizer Sabrina Dahl reached out to the community for help over the weekend after the venue they called home for three-years had to bow out — three-weeks before the big day. Just a few days later, Dahl was overjoyed to find a message on Facebook from Windsor’s Masonic Temple. “I’m pretty sure they heard something through the media,” she says. “The Masonic Temple jumped on it and they had a meeting tonight and it was apparently a unanimous decision.”
An emotionally exhausted Dahl tells AM800 News it’s hard to put her gratitude into words. “I started to cry when he told me we had a place, I haven’t slept in a couple of nights because I was that worried about it. We’re thrilled, we’re speechless really, to know that this is going to happen because so many people look forward to this,” says Dahl. “It just reinforces for us that what we do is important and there are other people that feel the same way — that everybody matters.” Dahl says location was an important factor for the event, needing to keep things close to downtown Windsor. She says the Elves couldn’t have asked for a better venue. “It’s huge; it’s going to meet all our needs, nobody’s going to be outside lining-up and waiting to get in the doors,” she says. “We’re just actually quite surprised to find someone so quickly.”
The Temple is also home to regular food drives, Christmas clothing drives (warm hands/happy hearts), University of Windsor and St. Clair College Scholarships, and benevolence/charitable assistance for Brethren and families in need. Masons have served lunch at the Downtown Mission, manned Salvation Army Christmas Kettles, and volunteered with Tim Hortons Camp Days and Goodfellows.
In an age of increasing isolation, the Masonic Temple connects Masons and the Community. Many Masons are age 60 and older, and the Masonic Temple gives them the opportunity to remain connected with friends and Brothers. Many Brethren report that the connections they have developed over 25 (or 30, or 50, or even 60) years of Masonry and Masonic Temple visits give them a sense of purpose.
Numerous research papers have demonstrated the importance of regular socialization for people, especially seniors.
Most recently, the Masonic Temple has instituted a regular coffee club for its membership. 2020/2021 is a very challenging time for our country, communities, and Masonry. I am writing this application during the COVID-19 crisis. To protect ourselves and our communities, the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario has decreed all Masonic Activities suspended; this suspension is to aid with social distancing. However, while Masons are physically isolating per the suspension, we are not socially isolating. Masons have set-up regular phone banks with older and vulnerable members, checking in and asking if they require any assistance.
Masons are also continuing with correspondence and benevolence requests.
As stated in the poem: An Ode to the Freemasons Gathered Here Today (composed for the 2017 Cornerstone Ceremony and displayed at the Windsor Masonic Temple):
“For you hold, you hold tight
and dear you are stone
and one of you cannot sink
if your brothers hold him tight.”