More than 50 people, including Masons and their friends and relatives, gathered in East Holden on Saturday, April 21 to dedicate the new location for the Grand Lodge of Maine administrative offices, library, and museum.
Since the early 1900s, those facilities occupied rented space at 415 Congress St., Portland, said Grand Secretary Gerald Leighton. “We had to move out because of the administrative costs of staying in that building.”
“The building was built in 1910. We had to use an elevator to reach the third floor where our offices were,” said Grand Master W. Louis Greenier II. “There’s no parking there in Portland.”
A site-selection committee studied locations in Maine, including a former branch bank at the intersection of Routes 1A and 46 in East Holden. Approximately 3,000 square feet in size with a similarly dimensioned basement, the building was constructed 19 years ago.
Masons attending a Grand Lodge meeting held Dec. 10, 2011 in Bangor “accepted the proposal to purchase the building and move to Holden,” Leighton said. The sale to the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation took place on Dec. 30, 2011.
“It fit our requirements and needs quite nicely,” he said. “In today’s world with electronic messaging and faxes, it didn’t matter where we were.”
The Grand Lodge of Maine had been headquartered in southern Maine for almost two centuries, according to Greenier. “When the Grand Lodge of Maine formed in 1820, we got our charter from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts,” he said. “Back then, everything was in the southern part of” Maine.
As Maine’s population expanded north and east, so did Masonic membership. Today the Grand Lodge of Maine has some 20,000 members spread across 24 districts and 185 lodges. According to Greenier, relocating the administrative offices to Holden made sense “masonically wise,” because “there are more [members] in the central part of the state than in the southern part of the state.
“I have a deputy who lives 15 minutes from [the] Grand Lodge [offices in Portland] and has never been there,” Greenier said.
After acquiring the Holden building, the Grand Lodge undertook some renovations. “We had to remove the teller cages, and we put ceramic tile throughout the building,” Greenier said. “We painted it. The cost was nothing as significant as it would cost us if we had to build a new building.
“They did a nice job inside, renovating it,” he said. “It’s very pleasant to work there.”
According to Leighton, three people will work full time at the administrative offices. He described the facility as “a multi-use building” that “also houses the Grand Lodge museum and library.” The administrative offices “will support the local lodges” throughout Maine, Leighton indicated.
The site has 22 authorized parking spaces, and the existing drive-through lanes could be enclosed to add another 800 square feet to the building. The Grand Lodge of Maine wants to expand its library; “we have a lot of members who have libraries [of Masonic material] who want to donate them,” Greenier said. “You wouldn’t believe the Masonic material that is available: thousands and thousands of books.”
The April 21 dedication featured a Masonic “cornerstone laying” ceremony and a brief welcoming speech by Holden Town Council Chairman Robert Harvey. Interviewed after the dedication, he said that “I welcome the Grand Lodge of Maine and their library and museum to the Town of Holden.
“I’m pleased to have the building occupied,” he said. “It’ll bring people in … from all over the state to view the library and museum.”
“It’s a beautiful building,” Greenier said. “It’s a nice location, and it’s pretty convenient to Bangor, the interstate, the coast. We couldn’t have found anything any better.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We’ve found [that] we’ve had more people in the [Holden] administrative offices in the last few weeks than we did in our last six months in Portland.
“We’ve got a lot more possibilities in Holden than we had in Portland,” Greenier said.