Menomanie Lodge The history of Masonry in Green Bay started on 27 December 1823 when ten Masons met at the home of George Johnston near Ft Howard, in Michigan Territory, and drafted a petition to the Grand Lodge of New York for permission to form a Masonic Lodge. The Grand Lodge of New York granted a dispensation on 12 June 1824 and on 3 December 1824 issued a charter for Menomanie Lodge #374. The Lodge met in an upper room over a Commissary store near Ft. Howard, and later in a small building on a private claim site. Beginning in the fall of 1827 the Lodge met in the upper room over the store of R. & A. J. Erwin in "Shanty Town". Some confusion still remains about the status of Menomanie Lodge. Five Michigan Territory Lodges originally chartered under the Grand Lodge of New York formed the Grand Lodge of Michigan in Detroit in June 1826. Menomanie Lodge did not attend and was represented by proxies. Menomanie Lodge #374 (NY) was re-designated as Menominee Lodge #4 (Ml).
Henry S. Baird stated in 1854 that contrary to the action of the Michigan Grand Lodge, "Menomanie Lodge continued to operate under the original charter from New York". Baird elected to ignore the Masonic law of Territorial Jurisdiction Records show that during the Grand Lodge of Michigan annual session on 31 July 1826, Menominee Lodge #4 members Robert Irwin and Robert Irwin Jr. were appointed as Grand Stewards of Charity. The following year on 19 February 1827 Robert Irwin Jr. was acting Grand Secretary (Pro-Tem) and a week later was acting Grand Junior Warden (Pro-Tem), indicating that Menominee Lodge was in fact, attending and operating under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. In 1830 the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan suspended the work of the Michigan Grand Lodge and advised the subordinate Lodges to do the same. No written record has been found to show Menominee Lodge ever met or worked after 1830. Two reasons are given for the demise of Menominee Lodge: one is that the military members moved further west or were discharged, and secondly (and probably more accurate) the Anti-Masonic sentiment caused by the Morgan Affair. It would be eighteen more years before another Masonic Lodge would be established in Green Bay.
(text courtesy of Past Grand Master James J. Byrnes)
Cornerstone of NEW Masonic Center
Masonry Returns After Menominee Lodge went dark in 1830, it would be ten long years before Masonry again surfaced in the Wisconsin Territory; at Mineral Point in 1840 and Platteville in 1842 (both working under the Grand Lodge of Missouri) and in Milwaukee in early 1843 (working under the Grand Lodge of Illinois). These three Lodges were instrumental in forming the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin in December 1843. No record has been found to date to explain the lack of Masonic activity in Green Bay from 1830 to 1848. The new Lodge in Mineral Point in 1840 and the formation of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin in 1843 did not appear to have an impact on Masonry in Green Bay. Masonry slowly moved north, adding Sheboygan in 1847, and finally returning to Green Bay in 1848 after an absence of eighteen years. Eighteen Green Bay and Ft Howard area Master Masons (about half had previously been members of the old Menominee Lodge), petitioned the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin for permission to meet and work under the name Washington Lodge. A dispensation was issued on 23 December 1847, and a charter was granted for Washington Lodge #21 on 16 December 1848. Henry S. Baird, who had served as the last Worshipful Master of Menominee Lodge in 1830, was also the first Worshipful Master of Washington Lodge in 1848 (an eighteen year gap). He served as Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin in 1856 and 1857. Washington Lodge first met on the second floor of a building at Washington and Cherry Streets, moved to the third floor of the State Gazette building on Pine Street and then to the First National Bank Building which was destroyed by fire in 1869. Also destroyed in the fire were the original charter and the old records pertaining to Menominee Lodge. The Masonic family continued to flourish in Green Bay and added the York Rite Bodies: Warren Chapter No. 8 Royal Arch Masons in 1851; Warren Council No. 13 Royal and Select Masters in 1881 and Palestine Commandery No. 20 Knights Templar in 1883.
First Masonic Temple On 5 March 1891 the Masons of Green Bay (wanting a home of their own) established a building fund with $300 of seed money. Land was finally purchased on 14 January 1896 at the corner of Cherry and Adams Streets and a six-story "skyscraper" was proposed, but cooler heads prevailed and the building was limited to three stories. The foundation was actually constructed to support six stories. The Green Bay ladies undoubtedly played an important part (perhaps in the background) in the construction of the building as the charter for Martha Washington Chapter No. 124, OES, was issued in 1901. Construction of the Green Bay Masonic Temple commenced in the late summer of 1906, and on 7 September 1906 the cornerstone laying ceremony was held. The first meeting of Washington Lodge in the new building was held on 12 May 1910, prior to the formal Grand Lodge dedication on 3 October 1911. Masonry in Green Bay continued to grow and on 2 August 1935 the Joint Building Board was authorized (by Washington Lodge and the York Rite Bodies) to purchase the lot and building to the immediate west of the Temple. Foeller, Shober & Berners were again employed as Architects for the addition. Razing of the building on the west lot commenced on 18 September and in less than five short months the addition was completed. An Addition-Dedication-Dinner with approximately 500 guests attending was held on 27 February 1936. The addition included billiard and clubrooms on the second floor and a banquet room and dance hall occupied the third floor. A unique feature of the third floor level was a new-type floating floor of Bruce interlocking oak squares. Norgaard Furriers occupied the ground floor level and basement of the addition.
Membership Growth Due to the large membership of Washington Lodge, a number of the younger members of the Lodge, who were eager for an opportunity to govern a Lodge, elected to form a new Lodge. A charter was granted to Roosevelt Lodge #322 in June 1920 (name later changed to Theodore Roosevelt Lodge #322 in April 1948). Nazarene Shrine #8, of the White Shrine of Jerusalem was chartered on 12 May 1920, providing another co-ed organization in the Green Bay Masonic Family. Scottish Rite Masonry entered Wisconsin in 1863 as the Valley of Milwaukee; spread to the Valley of Madison in 1921 and the Valley of Eau Claire in 1922. Green Bay area candidates had to travel to any of the three valleys for the degrees. It was not until 1942 that the N.E.W. Lodge of Perfection was chartered in the Valley of Green Bay; the N.E.W. Council of Princes of Jerusalem was chartered in 1946; the N.E.W. Chapter of Rose Croix was charted in 1949 and finally the N.E.W. Consistory was charted in 1960. Candidates could now receive all of the Scottish Rite work in Green Bay. The Masonic Family did include the youth, with Warren Chapter #8 sponsoring the Order of DeMolay and a charter was issued on 7 March 1923. Bethel #32 of the International Order of Job's Daughters was chartered on 1 May 1943 The York Rite Red Cross of Constantine was chartered on 13 June 1981. Masons who were retired were seeking a Lodge that met during the daytime and a charter was granted for N.E.W. Daylite Lodge No. 360 on 12 June 1984. Disaster struck again in Green Bay on the evening of 5 February 1977 when fire destroyed the Masonic Temple. The upper two floors were gutted and the businesses on the street level suffered smoke and water damage. In the true Masonic spirit, friends stepped forward and provided temporary space for the required Masonic meetings: including the Lodges in De Pere and Appleton, and the Green Bay Odd Fellows.
Dedication plaque of the N.E.W. Masonic Center
Second Temple With the Grand heads in attendance, the representatives of the owning bodies: Washington and Roosevelt Lodges and the York Rite Bodies, joined by De Pere Lodge and the Scottish Rite Bodies voted to proceed with the construction of a new Masonic Center on Taylor Street near Bond Street. The Grand Lodge issued a dispensation for De Pere Lodge in February 1857, which was quickly corrected, and a charter was issued to Des Peres Lodge #85 in June 1857. The Lodge occupied rooms at Carpenter Hall until 1908, when it purchased the Congregational Church at Broadway and Cass Streets in De Pere. The Lodge sold the building in 1981 and moved along with Charles A. Lawton Chapter #270, OES, into the N.E.W. Masonic Center. It took a good deal of planning with Surplice Associates (the Architects), before the building plans were approved and ground was finally broken for a 1.2 million dollar Masonic Center. The cornerstone laying ceremony was held on 19 November 1978 and the formal dedication was on 8 September 1979.
The first floor and lower level comprise approximately 34,000 square feet and featured a 450-person theater-type auditorium, a 100-person Lodge room and a complete kitchen and dining rooms for approximately 200 persons. The Masonic Center is the home of Washington Lodge #21, Des Peres Lodge #85, Theodore Roosevelt Lodge #322, Daylite Lodge #360, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Valley of Green Bay, Warren Chapter #8 RAM, Warren Council #13 R&SM and Palestine Commandery #20. Other organizations meeting in the Center include Martha Washington Chapter #124 OES, Bethel #32 IOJD and Green Bay Chapter DeMolay. In June 1982 the Northeast Wisconsin Masonic Center was the first location outside of Milwaukee or Madison to host a Grand Lodge of Wisconsin session.