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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Italian Government Attempting Anti-Masonic Actions...Again

In recent weeks, there has been an increasing concern across Europe within the fraternity about anti-Masonic government activity in Italy. The Italians keep at it by abusing anti-Mafia laws against Freemasonry, in much the same way RICO laws in the U.S. designed to fight organized crime got contorted and exploited to prevent anti-abortion protesters from marching in front of Planned Parenthood clinics. This kind of institutionalized anti-Masonry has briefly succeeded before in Italy after the P2 scandal in the 1980s, and in England under then-Home Secretary Jack Straw. It was only stopped by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2009 that decided laws demanding Freemasons turn over their lists of membership or personally declare their membership publicly as a requirement for employment or public office violated Article 41 of the European Union's Convention on Human Rights regarding free association and non-discrimmination against specifically Masonic organizations. 

The French language blog, 3, 5, 7, et Plus, is an excellent one for keeping abreast of activities in Europe regarding Freemasonry that go unreported over here. Its author usually does a pretty good job of presenting stories that can sometimes be complex, because he is aware of the many competing (and frequently bewildering) Masonic obediences at work in those countries. The site's author is anonymous and freely states his own subjectivity: he is a 24+ year member of the Grand Orient de France, so keep that frame of reference in mind. But his articles about the situation in Italy do a good job of laying out what's happening. I excerpt two of his entries below.  

(NOTE: I relied upon Microsoft's translator and my own limited French vocabulary, so any errors he may have made in distilling Italian press coverage into French will only be compounded by my own methodology, including any improper word substitutions. I freely accept any corrections others may wish to offer. I further apologize for any formatting problems that might appear on various web browsers or platforms.  This has to do with the way I had to import the articles as run through the translator software.)



The February 6th post, Italy: Freemasonry and Transparency reads, in part:


Since the case of the Propaganda Due Lodge, better known under the name of P2, the Italian anti-Masons are obsessed with the negative influence that they lend to Freemasonry on political, social and economic life. They live in the idea that one of the causes of this harmful influence lies in the secret of belonging. This idea could be supported by a search of the home of Licio Gelli, March 17, 1981, during which the police took hold of the list of 962 members of P2. This list included a significant number of parliamentarians, Ministers and former Ministers, senior officials, members of the secret service, contractors or even journalists. Since then, opponents of Freemasonry are convinced that it would be sufficient to publish the lists of Masons to do away with what they call the "massomafia." They however forget that the P2 was suspended by the Grand Orient of Italy in 1976 and that this suspension did not prevent Licio Gelli, its Worshipful Master, to continue illegal activities.
30 years after the affair of the P2, Italian Freemasonry is again summoned to account. It is accused to be infiltrated by the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, despite that the infiltration has yet demonstrated by evidence. It is sufficient that a Mammasantissima (head of the mafia in Calabria) crossed the path of a Freemason that wildest suspicions appear, and suggest a collaboration between the mafia and Masonic networks. A parliamentary anti-mafia [committee], chaired by Ms. Rosy Bindi - a politician from the ranks of the former Christian democracy [political party] - heard the principal leaders of the Masonic obediences on the [Italian] peninsula. She asked them to produce a list of their members. Without success. It should indeed be noted that Stefano Bisi, Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy (23,000 brothers across 850 lodges), refused on behalf of the freedom of association and respect for privacy. He said:
"Unfortunately, we always deplore the persistence of anti-Masonic prejudice within Italian society: giving the names of the members of the Grand Orient of Italy would put them in great embarrassment and take the risk of exposing them to a witch hunt...

The secret of belonging is guaranteed by the law on privacy. Even political parties, associations and trade unions are not required to reveal the identity of their members. Whenever there was a scandal, no one went to ask them to disclose the names of their members. What would be for others, why not apply for us? ... I consider this request as a form of persecution."
And added:
"Our principles and the qualities required to become Freemasons are well explained on our website. Our rules are known and fully transparent. Those who come to the Grand Orient of Italy for interested reasons will not aid the brothers... We, masons, are the first to have an interest to blocking the infiltration of the mafia. Among the requirements to be admitted into Freemasonry, there is an obligation to have a criminal report. I am neither judge nor police officer. I can't determine whether some person belong to the mafia if the judicial authority tells me not... Whenever there is a suspicion of a criminal infiltration and we are warned, we then take disciplinary action..."
Antonio Binnie, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Italy (8,000 members, 40% women divided into 510 lodges), is on the same line:
"I can't access this application, there is a law on the protection of personal information"
The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Italy pointed to the exorbitant nature of this request. How can parliamentarians insist at this point that the Masonic obediences violate a law passed by Parliament in 2003?
However, Fabio Venzi, Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy (3,500 brothers divided into 310 lodges), said that they are ready to collaborate with the Parliamentary Committee.
"I am ready to publish the list on our site. This would remove any reservations to those who still see corruption in the world of Freemasonry."
However, it is not at all certain the brothers of this obedience appreciate the declaration for the less alarming to their Grand Master. Did Venzi speak too quickly without thinking about the practical implications of his comments? It is quite possible. In the meantime, he should remember the mishap that happened to one of his predecessors, the brother Giuliano Di Bernardo in 1993. The latter, at the time Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, had seriously thought to turn over the files of the members of his obedience to the judicial authorities. Di Bernardo had been pushed, said, by the United Grand Lodge of England. However, Di Bernardo was disavowed and brought to resign of the Grand Orient of Italy. He then left with some three hundred brothers and founded the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy of which, by the way, he is no longer a member since 2002 (he became Grand Master of an esoteric order called 'Dignity Order' which seems to have no Masonic character). Venzi should ponder the lessons of the past.


Be that as it may, the anti-mafia parliamentary commission wanted to quickly get the lists of the members of the different obediences. However, it is highly unlikely that it was satisfied because this application raises significant legal problems that go far beyond the postures of Ms. Bindi who is often [known for her own] national political ambitions. The President of the parliamentary commission has spread in the press stories about alleged risks of maconnico-mafia collusion, it is clear that there are not, today in Italy, Freemasons charged and referred to as such in the courts. And even if there was only one [so charged], it would not have made as far the membership and the active support of Masonic obediences in activities illegal and criminally punishable. For example just look at the recent case of Occhionero why Italians Freemasons, not the least, were victims of cyber-spying.
In short, as often, you have to bring things back to fairer proportions. Within the Masonic order, there may always be black sheep, just as there may be, within the Roman Catholic Church, to which Ms. Bindi is close, pedophile priests, thieves or other common criminals. It does not mean that all Freemasons and all clergymen are to be tossed in the same bag. In either case, intellectual honesty is [required] to avoid generalizations that cause trouble in the spirits and threaten civil liberties, including freedom of association.






A follow up February 13th post, The Espresso and the Abolition of Freemasonry continues the story, once it gained publicity in one of Italy's most influential magazines:





In its issue of February 12, 2017, the weekly L'Espresso [magazine] caused a controversy which immediately led a very energetic reaction of the Grand Orient of Italy via the voice of the Grand Master Stefano Bisi. 


The famous Italian weekly has indeed published a long article by Gianfrancesco Turano, journalist and novelist, entitled (no less): "Abolish Freemasonry". This article isn't yet an investigation. Rather, it is a reminder of what is said or what could be said in Italy on the alleged links between the criminal and the lodges in Calabria, on the hearings of officials of Masonic obediences by the parliamentary anti-mafia commission and on access to the files that contain the identity and contact information of their members. Turano came inevitably on the case of the P2 lodge and of Occhionero, who hit the headlines recently. Finally, he recalled the ongoing judicial investigations and concluded, provocatively, that Freemasonry should be abolished.

L'Espresso does not claim support of the ban on Freemasonry but seems rather to have one editorial [viewpoint] throughout this article. Nevertheless, the process is brutal because L'Espresso is a real institution in Italy. This title of the Italian press participated in all major battles as a corporation. To make a comparison with France, it's as if Nouvel Observateur, a weekly [publication] of the left and centre-left, published a similar case with a shock title.

In a press release, published on the day of the release of the weekly [issue], the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy has counterattacked:


"I'm sorry and worried than a weekly of great traditions, in the history of our country, which has attended during its sixty years of existence, to large battles like divorce, civil rights, the fights against corruption and embezzlement, which is headed by men with strong secular principles, decided to indulge such grandstanding [expression used by Bisi is 'paper tiger']. '. When we make the choice to publish titles like "Abolish Freemasonry", you can only consider the purely ideological intention to knock the birthplace of free thought. Well, I believe that democracy and freedom of association are really in danger.

While Italy is mired in a crisis without end, while, unfortunately, political parties increasingly are in crisis and are likely to be defeated by the demagogic populism of certain movements, we can only be amazed at the sudden attention on Freemasonry which continues to be a comfortable and safe to hide the real problems of the country.

The idea of manhunt is still supported by demand by the anti-Mafia Commission to produce lists of Masons, the vulgar and enunciated attempt to not give us the documents from the inquiry in 2000 archived Cordova and morbid attention in the media. But the Freemasons of the Grand Orient of Italy have managed to overcome many other events and do not bow before the fascists and defeatists who are always plotting in the shadows. Now, in the face of this new clumsy attempt to discredit Freemasonry and destroy it, it will be ready to fight anywhere because it does not affect the greatest Act of our Constitution: the right to think freely, a right which has been for three hundred years the landmark of the Freemason. We we will not be intimidated and influenced by anyone."

I fully understand the strong reaction of Stefano Bisi. The Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy expressed a weariness at the reports ordered by editors according to the ideas of the moment. Gianfrancisco Turno's article brings nothing new. It contains no special revelation. 
It seems that this issue has been published in order to satisfy the readers and to provoke, in the Italian political landerneau, the clash or "buzz" as they say now. We give people what they want to know rather than what they need to know. Freemasonry makes sales. Its mysterious side fuels the fantasies. Stefano Bisi deplores, rightly, that a weekly [magazine] so emblematic as L'Espresso has decided to excite the instincts and fantasies of people and produce opinion asking.
This is serious, this is to realize that prejudices remain despite the country's fascist past and despite the confirmed case law of the European Court of human rights on the freedom of private life, freedom of conscience, freedom of association and the secret of belonging.
Today being a Freemason is still a subject of controversy. This is serious, it is clear that for part of the Italian public opinion, to be a member of a Masonic lodge makes you a criminal, a mobster, an individual who has sworn allegiance to the dark powers, a traitor, etc. And no matter that the obediences have disciplinary proceedings. It doesn't matter that they disqualify Freemasons who have committed acts contrary to the law.
On behalf of so-called democratic transparency, parliamentarians, journalists, political parties (often populist), citizens are demanding, with this ostentatious conscience, a public display of other citizens because of their Masonic membership. They are calling for transparency to which they are unwilling to consent themselves if they were so targeted.




Most U.S. Freemasons know little or nothing about the intricacies of European Freemasonry and how or why it has evolved over the centuries. It is a confusing minefield at best for even the most seasoned brethren who concern themselves with it. In the case of Italy, an important case in point is this. As alluded in the above articles, the Grand Orient of Italy is the largest obedience in that country, and the body that the overwhelming majority of U.S. grand lodges recognize. But in a rarity, the United Grand Lodge of England - from whom many U.S. grand lodges seek clarity and guidance - recognizes the much smaller and newer Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. The U.S. did not uniformly follow UGLE's action, and continues not to do so.

The French Mason who writes the 3, 5, 7, and More blog also quite conveniently laid out the current lineup of grand obediences at work in Italy at this time, with a very brief explanation of the two major ones:


Italian Freemasonry today. 
As in France, Italy never had unified Masonic tradition even though the creation of modern Italy in 1870 led the rites to work under the auspices of the Grand Orient, the historically established obedience in 1805. [It was dominant at that] given time, but this was short-lived. In 1908, there was indeed a rift between two trends: the trend of the so-called Masonry of the "Palazzo Giustiniani" (name of the former headquarters of the Grand Orient) and the tendency of the so-called Masonry of the "47 Piazza del Gesù'"(name of the former headquarters of the Grand Lodge). The first trend is attached to a Masonry engaged in social thinking. It remains heavily involved in the fight for the Secularization of Italian society. The second trend is attached to an essentially spiritual Masonry and limited secular debates. Masonic activities were prohibited under Fascist Italy from 1925 to 1945. The historical Italian obediences resumed their activities after the end of the second world war. New obediences appeared. Fragmentation has increased. Each federation of lodges, depending on its sensitivity, is claimed to "Palazzo Giustiniani" Masonry or Masonry of the "Piazza del Gesù." Nevertheless, [ideology of the] two trends have nothing to do with notions of regularity and irregularity. Indeed, the Grand Orient of Italy ("Palazzo Giustiniani") was long recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England, more exactly until 1993, and it also hopes to recover one day this recognition. The Grand Lodge of Italy ("Piazza del Gesù"), is a founding member of the CLIPSAS and mixed since 1956. The reader will find below a non-exhaustive list of Masonic obediences.
NameDate of FoundationWeb site
Grand Orient of Italy1805 GOI 
Serenissima Grande Lodge of the Rite Symbolism Italian1859 (joined the GOI in 1922 while maintaining a certain autonomy)SGLRSI
Grand Lodge of Italy F&AM1908 GLI
Italian Federation of Human Right1916DH
Grand Lodge C.A.M.E.A.1958CAMEA
United Grand Lodge of Italy1974
Grand Lodge of Italy of Universal Masonry1978
Grand Orient Italian of the Strict Observance1979
The Freemasons of Italy National Grand Lodge1979GLNI
Women's Grand Lodge of Italy1990GLFI 
Symbolic Order of the Egyptian Rite1992
Regular Grand Lodge of Italy1993GLRI
Grand Independent United Lodge of Italy2005GLUIA
Grand Italian Lodge of Ancient Observance2007GLIO 
Traditional Grand Lodge of Italy2011GLTI

GM of Florida Again Rescinds Recognition With Cuba



Well. THAT didn't last very long at all. What Grand Lodges giveth, Grand Masters can taketh awayeth.

As reported here, the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM recognized the Gran Logia de Cuba on December 10, 2016, and their lodges enjoyed mutual visitation for the first time in 56 years. 

Now it seems that Florida's Grand Master, MW Stanley Hudson, has again withdrawn recognition on February 16th from the GL de Cuba for their failure to "renounce the clandestine lodges operating" in Florida's jurisdiction.

(Click the image above to enlarge.)

UPDATE 2/18/2017 11AM: 
I am informed that this controversy stems from lodges operated within Florida made up of exiled Cuban Masons who are not affiliated with the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM. They obviously see this as an invasion of their territory by Cuba, and this discussion apparently has gone on for a while. Here is a link to a letter regarding the matter from 2014.

It seems that the GL of Florida largely looked the other way at the operation of the exile lodges with an understanding that they would cease once relations between the island nation and the US were normalized and the two Grand Lodges reconciled. That apparently did not happen, at least as quickly as the GL of Florida wanted it to. Hence, the new divorce.

H/T Colin Peterson

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vitruvian Man


A brief TedEd lesson on the mathematical explanation of the namesake of one of my lodges, Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, that touches very quickly on the concept of 'squaring the circle.'

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Masonic Week 2017 Opens Today


Masonic Week 2017 officially kicks off today at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, adjacent to Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia (just across the river from Washington DC). The official program can be seen HERE

Masonic Week is the official yearly gathering of numerous annual meetings and degree conferrals, elections, speeches, presentations, banquets, and other assorted sundry activities of lesser known, mostly York Rite-related organizations. The Allied Masonic Degrees is the primary body meeting, but there is a whole world of others many Masons know little or nothing about, gathered in one place. 

It is also the location of the annual induction of the newest Blue Friar, a select society of Masonic authors, and his presentation of an original paper. (I've heard a rumor of who it might be this year, and it is well deserved and long overdue, if true.)

And of course, it is the site of the 9th Annual Meeting and Banquet of the Masonic Society, and Friday evening's speaker will be our new-ish Editor of the Journal of the Masonic Society, Michael Poll. TMS is also once again hosting a hospitality suite (in Room 1811), so if you are attending this year, please stop by the room, enjoy a wee dram, and enjoy the company. You never know who you will find there.

Unfortunately, I am not going again this year - not in the Hodapphäus budget I'm afraid - but it's always an outstanding function of the year. It is a very international gathering, and you never know who you'll find there from around the world. Most events required earlier reservations, so it's not the best situation to arrive without having done that before. It's not really well suited to walk-ins. But that said, there are plenty of folks who don't bother with any of the official events, they just show up, see old friends, make new ones, and just hang out for the weekend. And there's always a decent lineup of vendors, there, too, in case you don't own enough Masonic books, magazines, jewelry, and other ephemera.

(And yes, I'm sure by now everyone and his mother has told Dan that he misspelled "Reagan" in the graphic on the event's pages.)

UPDATE 2/9/17: Michael Poll just posted online that his flights from New Orleans have unfortunately been cancelled due to inclement East Coast weather, and that he is unable to reschedule to get to Washington DC in time for this event. However, he is recording the speeches he was supposed to give and they will be projected at Masonic Week.

(Why do the organizers of Masonic Week stubbornly cling to the combination of the DC area location in February, despite decades of experiencing weather cancellations that scream to change it? The SRICF finally gave up on it two years ago and moved to Louisville in November. Yes, I know, it's been 75° on this weekend before too. But snowstorms or ice are the more likely scenarios. The event used to coincide with the annual meeting of the Conference of Grand Masters which always took place the following week in Washington, so it made sense then. And that started in the days when people took trains everywhere. But the GMs finally abandoned the area, in part out of exasperation with the weather. So, what's keeping Masonic Week there now, especially at that time of year?)

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

2018 Quatuor Coronati Conference at GW Memorial 9/14-16/2018 Call For Papers

2018 Quatuor Coronati Conference: Freemasons in the Transatlantic World during the Long 18th Century (1688 - 1815)

September 14-16, 2018
SECOND CALL FOR PAPERS

The Academic Committee of the 2018 Quatuor Coronati Conference, sponsored by Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 of the United Grand Lodge of England, invites proposals for papers presenting new research in the form of biographical or prosopographical findings in the history of Anglo-American Freemasonry during the long eighteenth century, including studies of freemasons in or from all parts of Britain, Ireland, all of North America and the Caribbean. Early and mid-career academics are particularly encouraged to apply, though proposals from senior and independent scholars are also welcomed. 

Academic committee of the conference: Professors Susan Sommers, Mark Wallace, Paul Monod and Jessica Harland-Jacobs. 

Abstracts and proposals of up to 500 words, plus a brief CV, should be submitted in the body of an email to the committee c/o Professor Susan Summers at susan.sommers@stvincent.edu, with “QC 2018” in the subject line. 

The closing date for the first round of submissions is May 1st, 2017. 

Location: Alexandria, Virginia, USA: George Washington Masonic National Memorial (101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria Virginia, 22301)

More information will be posted HERE over the coming months and QCCC members will be able to register their interest in the event later this year. The initial steering group for the conference comprises Susan Sommers (Academic), Mark Tabbert (GWMNM, Alexandria) and Ric Berman (Finance, Marketing and UK liaison).

H/T: Oscar Alleyne

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Corey D. B. Walker Speaking in Boston 4/3


Boston University's American and New England Studies Program will present its third annual lecture on American fraternalism on April 3rd.

This year Professor Corey D. B. Walker, or Winston-Salem State University, will lecture on “The Sovereignty of the Imagination: African American Freemasons and the Problem of Democracy in the Modern World.”  Professor Walker is the author of the outstanding 2008 book, A Noble Fight: African American Freemasonry and the Struggle for Democracy in America.

The lecture is free and open to the public, and will take place Monday, April 3, 2017, at 8 pm in Room KCB-101 of 565 Commonwealth Avenue on the Campus of Boston University, in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston University Lodge, AF & AM is the generous supporter of this lecture series. (Click the poster image above to enlarge.)

By the way, A Noble Fight is an exploration of the role of Prince Hall Masonry in African American American society and culture. His premise is related in some respects to Margaret Jacob's contention that speculative Freemasons were living out the theories of the Enlightenment in their Masonic lodges in an early practical application of them. Walker's variation, in part, is that the 19th century black American lodges were likewise instructing their members in the very practical 'working tools' of democratic government. His speech seems from the description to be a 21st century extension of the similar theme.

The announcement of this speech made me go back and glance through his book again. I'm coincidentally  writing a chapter right this very moment about recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Indiana, and this week I am picking my way through the formation of what became the Prince Hall Grand Lodge here. In his address to the mainstream Grand Lodge of Ohio in 1875, Ohio's Grand Master, Asa H. Battin delivered up a very lengthy presentation to his assembled brethren entitled "New Day, New Duty," in which he reported that there were 12,811 'colored Masons' at work in 539 lodges in the U.S. at that time. I'm unsure of where he got those numbers, but for a voluntary organization that cost precious household money to join during a turbulent political and social moment in history for American blacks, that was a pretty substantial cluster of men that 99% of mainstream Masons didn't know (or believe) existed. Battin was interested in recognizing the precursor to the Prince Hall grand lodge in Ohio at that time, and his committee came back with an interesting recommendation that ultimately failed to pass. Nearly every other state's proceedings for 1876 discuss Ohio's activities on the matter. It should be noted that actual mainstream recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry wouldn't begin for another century.

Anyway, if you are in the Boston area, check out Brother Walker's presentation. (In 2008, he was a member of Jefferson Lodge 20 in Charlottesville, Virginia, of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia.) 

It doesn't appear that reservations are required.

H/T to Will Moore




Saturday, February 04, 2017

'America: Facts vs. Fiction - Secret Societies' Tonight 2/4


At 10:00PM tonight (Saturday, February 4th), the American Heroes Channel (AHC) will premiere a new episode of America: Facts vs. Fiction about U.S. 'secret societies,' kicking off their 4th season. 

Yes, the Freemasons are included in the one hour show. Yes, both Alice and I are supposedly interviewed in it. No, we haven't seen it yet ourselves and we make absolutely zero guarantees as to its veracity or quality. Nor do we know if the producers felt compelled to include some "opposing viewpoint" spokesman or crackpot to edit us up against. 

However, I will say they told us when we shot with them last year that they were not, and that's not their style anyway. Frankly, the only reason we agreed to this one was because past episodes of this show have been entertaining, factual, and generally free of what another producer of one of these types of things several years ago called the "woo-woo factor." America: Facts vs. Fiction has usually done a good job of truthfully documenting the subject at hand in seasons past, with a concentration on specifically debunking conspiracy theories (not supporting them). So, we did it.

Watch if you are so inclined tonight. You won't hurt our feelings if you don't.

Here's the official descriptive blurb:
Much of what we know about America's secret societies is myth, not truth. The Freemasons have no evil agenda, the Mafia took root not in New York, but the South, and Yale's Skull and Bones does not control a sinister shadow government.
For Indiana Masons, be sure to watch the scenery during the episode: they shot sequences at both the Indianapolis Masonic Temple and the Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral (with a concentration on our magnificent stained glass windows, as well as the exterior details).

UPDATE 2/7/2017: In case your cable/satellite/other provider doesn't offer AHC, the episode is now available online HERE. Don't know for how long.

Not a Good Day for Masonic Buildings

Not one, but two irreplaceable Masonic buildings came across the wires today: the Zembo Shrine Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the former home of two of a Jeffersonville, Indiana Masonic lodge.

First up, History For Sale from the Harrisburg News website today:

A few weeks ago, the Lemoyne-based Bill Gladstone Group listed the 62,621-square-foot building for sale for $950,000.
The building, at N. 3rd and Division streets, long has been home to the Shriners, the Harrisburg affiliate of the international fraternity that follows Masonic principles. In addition to serving as meeting space for the society, the building may be best known throughout central PA for hosting the annual Zembo Shrine circus, in addition to many other large-scale events.
“It’s been a kick in the gut,” said Michael T. Govora Jr., a past potentate of the Zembo Shriners. “But we simply can’t afford to do it anymore. It’s a matter of manpower and money.”
Govora said that aging and declining membership, as well as increasing costs for such expenses as property taxes and utilities, are forcing the sale. Moreover, the Shriners want to make certain that they’re able to continue with their principal mission—raising money for 22 children’s hospitals.
“We’re looking at this as a positive,” Govora said. “We’re looking for our fraternity to be fruitful for years to come and not run out of money keeping something we can’t afford.”
The local organization currently has about 2,200 members, he said, down from about 10,000 four decades ago.
Built in 1928-29, Zembo was designed in the Moorish Revival style, with flourishes of Art Deco, by noted local architect Charles Howard Lloyd. The Shriners selected Lloyd’s design following a heated competition involving some of Harrisburg’s best-known architects, according to “Building Harrisburg,” Ken Frew’s history of the city’s architecture. Zembo cost about $1 million to build.
Both Govora and Gladstone said that it may take awhile to sell the cavernous stone-and-masonry building, given its unique design and features, which include rooms full of dazzling, imported tiles, a large auditorium, a 120-foot minaret and 300 parking spaces.
“So much history is attached to it, so many events have been held there,” Gladstone said. “To their credit, they realized that the time had come to sell.”
David Morrison, executive director of Historic Harrisburg Association, described Zembo as “the second-most iconic building in Harrisburg after the Capitol.”
“It’s played a huge role in the community,” he said. “A lot of events have taken place there over so many years–presidential candidates, important performers. So, its history is unique.”
Morrison said he expects another institutional user would be most interested in the property.
“Across the street, you have the William Penn campus,” he said. “That makes it a unique district, and the centerpiece is the Zembo center.”
As for the Shriners, Govora said that sale of the property will help them survive as a group and continue their mission. They may ask the buyer to lease back meeting space to them or they might find another, smaller location in the Harrisburg area.
“There’s no need for people to get too nervous because we’re not going anywhere as a fraternity,” he said.
The project was started just six months before the stock market Crash in 1929 that led off the depression, and it was nonetheless completed by May 1930. Despite the current valuation of the facility at more than $7 million, it's being fire-saled on the market for just under a million, about what it cost to build almost 90 years ago.  

Second is a former Masonic temple in Jeffersonville, Indiana, the onetime home to Clark Lodge 40 and built in 1926. While Zembo is certainly savable and has potential to be a magnificent home for another owner, Jeffersonville's building is not so lucky. The lodge moved out back in 1994, and despite new ownership, it has been largely neglected almost ever since (although a satellite dish on a side roof implies it's had a more recent resident).

From Jeffersonville's Masonic Temple Faces Demolition in the News & Tribune this morning:


The clock may be ticking on the fate of one of Jeffersonville's most historically significant buildings — the Masonic Lodge at 509 E. Spring St.
On Wednesday, the owner — Chris Nolan of Pinnacle Properties Development Group — filed an application with the Jeffersonville Building Commissioner’s Office to raze the deteriorating building. It must be posted for two weeks, which started Wednesday.
Thirty days is the soonest any demolition could occur but first, Nolan would need to secure a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Jeffersonville Historic Preservation Commission, due to the building's historical importance.

The commission meets the second Monday of each month — the next meting is Feb. 13 and Nolan must apply for the certificate and be placed on the agenda before action can be taken that night.
A structural engineering investigation, performed by Renaissance Design Build, Inc., accompanied the application to the building inspector.
The report states that through a “non-destructive visual inspection,” engineers noted deterioration throughout the building — sections of roof missing and pieces of roof scattered around the site, standing water on all three floors and the basement, including a foot of water in the boiler room, electrical panels, metal box gutters and electric service which had fallen from the building, more than 50 percent of plaster walls and ceilings that were missing or damaged and ceiling and floor assembly failures throughout the structure.
The recommendation from engineers, as stated in the report, was to demolish the building due to “current unsafe deteriorated conditions of the existing building under Jeffersonville Unsafe Building ordinance 840R18 and cost-effectiveness of reconstructing existing building to bring it up to safe and structurally sound conditions for habitability.”
But Greg Sekula, director of the Southern Regional office of Indiana Landmarks, a statewide nonprofit preservation organization, hopes things turn around.
“Jeffersonville has lost a tremendous amount of historic buildings over the years from everything to interstate construction to flood to fire and this is one of the true landmark properties that remain — we need to do everything we can to save this building,” he said.
The three-story, 20,000-square-foot building, which overlooks Jeffersonville's Warder Park, was built in 1926 and was in use by the Masons until 1994. It was added to Indiana Landmark's top 10 list of endangered buildings statewide. It is also a contributing structure to the Old Jeffersonville National Register Historic District.
“Without a doubt, this is probably the most significant historic building in Jeffersonville remaining in terms of grand civic structures that have not been rehabilitated,” he said.
Sekula said that he and others at Indiana Landmarks have been in contact with Nolan over the years — alerting him about avenues of preservation that were open to him.

“Our door has always been open,” Sekula said. “It is a building we have been monitoring for quite some time. We have ... tried to encourage him to consider rehabilitating the building.”
Sekula said he let Nolan know about the state and federal tax credits that were available, and offered the possibility of donating or selling the building for rehabilitation.
“We had been encouraged by past conversations that he was committed to at least putting a roof on the building after some damage that occurred,” he said. “And unfortunately he has not taken the steps to secure the roof and as a result [the building] has been taking on some significant water on the interior.”
Nolan could not be reached for comment by press time.
According to a Jeffersonville ordinance regarding historic preservation, the commission must consider certain criteria when determining whether or not to accept the application, including the state of deterioration and affect the demolition would have on the historic district.
If it is denied, the building may still be demolished if the owner can prove they have exhausted all possibilities to try to preserve or sell the building.
“We would hope that we could work with Mr. Nolan to come up with an alternative to demolition,” Sekula said.
The town has been a mixed bag architecturally for historic Masonic buildings. Also in Jeffersonville, the historic longtime home of North Star Lodge 3 of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Indiana at 801 Spring Street (right) got the wrecking ball in 2015. The lodge reportedly was going to move to nearby Claysburg, but I can't find any record of it since 2015. If anybody knows its fate, pass it along and i'll update.

Jeffersonville sits directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, and was an important stop westward in the early days of Indiana because of a geographical speed bump in the river known as the "Falls of the Ohio." The obstruction to river traffic there exists even today, and a substantial lock system was constructed on the Kentucky side. During the Westward Expansion, no matter what you were paddling, you had to get around the Falls or just leave the river entirely. So, Jeffersonville was extremely important. There was already a Masonic lodge in the town just a year after the formation of the Grand Lodge of Indiana in 1818: Posey Lodge 8 (chartered 1819, but surrendered in 1833), and was replaced in 1835 by Clark Lodge 40.

After moving out of the 509 Spring Street building in the 90s, their newer home is now at 303 E. Park Place, and they share it with Jeffersonville Lodge 340.


Still, there's a preserved Temple left downtown. The beautiful current home of two more Jeffersonville lodges of the GL of Indiana F&AM is at 805 E. Market Street (also facing Spring Street): New Albany 39 and Pythagoras 355. Their beautiful Italianate home was originally built as a private residence, the John Connor house, in the 1800s (photo at right), but the lodge has been there since at least 1900.