Masonic lodge rises from ashes

Written by Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate August 05, 2014 02:54 pm
Russell E. Charnovia, Deputy Grand Master of California, ceremoniously tests the new cornerstone’s strength. Del Norte Triplicate / Melea Burke
Russell E. Charnovia, Deputy Grand Master of California, ceremoniously tests the new cornerstone’s strength. Del Norte Triplicate / Melea Burke
Crescent Lodge #45 rebuilt after burning in 2012

Freemasons on both sides of the state line came to Del Norte County on Saturday to celebrate a “phoenix from the ashes” — the completion of Crescent Lodge #45.

Two years after flames wiped out more than 150 years of records and memories, Crescent Lodge #45 Free and Accepted Masons laid the cornerstone of their new lodge. They anointed the stone with the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment and the oil of joy — historical items used in the dedication of a new lodge.

Led by Russell E. Charnovia, Deputy Grand Master of California, the Freemasons then buried a time capsule, which contained their bylaws, minutes from a recent meeting and pictures of Crescent City’s original lodge on Second Street. A photo of the previous lodge at Ninth and B streets as it burned was included along with a photo of the newly reconstructed lodge and its building plans. 

“A whole bunch of us were watching and crying and wondering how we would ever rebuild,” remembered John Pricer, Worshipful Master of Crescent Lodge #45 Free and Accepted Masons. 

On June 29, 2012, a fire ravaged the building, destroying journals, Bibles and tools dating back to the lodge’s birth in 1853. Also lost in the fire were regalia, historical documents and pictures and paintings of past public officials and members.

Following the fire, the Sydney Croft Lodge #206 in Brookings opened their lodge to their brothers on the California side of the border until their own could be rebuilt, Pricer said. 

Lodges across California and several individuals donated money to help rebuild the Crescent City lodge, Pricer said. A local carpenter donated his skill and made benches for the lodge room. In addition to donating much of the furniture, Oregon Freemasons contributed several pictures as well as the pedestals and altar, he said.

“In our lodge room, all the furniture was donated by Oregon lodges. Some chairs are over 100 years old. The master’s chair is well over 100 years old,” Pricer said.

The Crescent City lodge building itself was fully insured against fire, Pricer said. The lodge hired general contractor George Mayer of GR Construction to rebuild. The Masons held a groundbreaking ceremony in April 2013.

According to Charnovia, the  cornerstone-laying ceremony that was observed at the Crescent City lodge dates back more than 300 years. George Washington performed the same ceremony when he laid the cornerstone at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Charnovia said. 

“This has been done at every important building,” he said. “It hasn’t changed since George Washington did it.”

During the ceremony, Crescent City Masons made sure the cornerstone was square, plumb and its edges perpendicular. Charnovia said that when buildings were constructed of stone, the first stone had to be set perfectly or the structure would topple. 

During the  cornerstone-laying ceremony, Charnovia acknowledged the Masonic Grand Lodge of Oregon. Many Freemasons from Brookings comforted their Crescent City brothers when the building was still on fire, he said.

“We want to convey our extreme gratitude on behalf of the Masons of California to the Oregon Grand Master,” he said. “The Masonic Lodge is not a building but a group of friends and brothers. It is clear Crescent City needs Freemasonry, and we as Masons need this community.” 

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