The History of Winter Park Lodge
Winter Park Lodge began as Freemasons living in the city of Winter Park in 1915 looked to form their own lodge in the young city. Under the leadership of Dr. E.M. Hyde and Ray Greene (who would later be Mayor of Winter Park) they made contact with 31 Masons living in Winter Park who agreed to help establish a new lodge. Among those they approached was the Mayor of Winter Park, William Chase Temple.
Temple’s support was a major factor in the formation of the lodge and he was nominated to be our first Worshipful Master, but declined so that younger members could take active roles in the new lodge. The Brothers wanted to name the new lodge for William Temple, but there was already a Temple Lodge in Florida. Brother Homer Pope eventually proposed Winter Park Lodge and it was accepted.
Most of the Brothers were members of Orlando Lodge 69 and they were very supportive in the formation of the new lodge and provided them with the two bronze columns for the lodge room.
Early reports suggested they could get the lodge functioning for a year on one thousand dollars. They began to search for a meeting place and Brother Arthur Schultz said that they could rent the top floor of the Old Pioneer Building on Park Avenue for $300 the first year. But there was one condition: they had to make some repairs to the upper floor before they could begin to use it. There are several mentions of the extensiveness of the repairs. On March 3rd, 1916, Winter Park Lodge, under Dispensation from the Grand Master, met for the first time with Brother Benjamin Stone sitting in the East.
Winter Park Lodge began to meet on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. On the 13th of February 1917, the lodge was opened and the Tyler knocked at the door and announced that the District Deputy Grand Master was in waiting. Right Worshipful T.P. Warlow was received with Grand Honors and then proceeded to institute Winter Park Lodge 239 under Charter No. 239 granted by the Grand Lodge on January 18, 1917. There were 31 charter members, eight of whom went on to become Worshipful Masters of the lodge.
The lodge met for a couple of years in the Old Pioneer building before Arthur Schultz in 1921 raised the rent and then soon after announced the sale of the building and requested his money. They began to search for a new place to meet and within a few years found property on Comstock Avenue that could be bought for a reasonable price. Pieces of the property were sold off to offset the cost of the new building construction. The new hall was built in 1925 and cost about twenty-three thousand dollars. Money had been borrowed from The Bank of Winter Park and when the depression hit, the bank closed and the mortgage note was handed over to the state comptroller, a debt of just over ten-thousand dollars.
In 1935, the state comptroller finally got around to collecting on the mortgage from Winter Park Lodge. An offer was made that if the lodge paid $2500, the mortgage debt would be satisfied. The lodge began to search for money and approached Brother James Treat. Brother Treat’s wife Lillian was the first Worthy Matron of Pioneer 99. Brother Treat proposed that Pioneer Chapter 99 and Winter Park 239 split the cost of the mortgage which he would advance and the two could share the building.
By the 1960’s the lodge building on Comstock Avenue was beginning to show signs of age. There had never been major renovations. Originally, there hadn’t been much need for parking either. And the Grand Lodge of Florida had ruled that lodges could not co-own property with other appendant orders like the Eastern Star. The lodge needed to come to a fair resolution with Pioneer Chapter and still be ready to invest major money in the old building to bring it up to code with an elevator and other big expenses.
A new facility became a necessity. Properties were looked at. Winter Park bought a piece of property on Lee Road. That was condemned. They finally agreed to buy three acres from the Scottish Rite. At the same time, the sale of the old property was dragging. An offer for $850,000 was accepted and defaulted on. It took another three years, showing the building nearly fifty times and receiving almost two-hundred offers before the building was finally sold.
In November 1987, the lodge’s cornerstone was laid in the building we meet in today. Unfortunately, our corner stone was later vandalized and stolen