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AUDUBON-PARKSIDE LODGE #218 HISTORY

Compiled by RW Raymond C. Thorne PGT

Unabridged Version

1920
1921-1929
1930-1939
1940-1949
1950-1959
1960-1969
1970-1979
1980-1989
1990-1999
2000-2009
2010-2019

Abridged Version

The two lodges that consolidated to form Audubon-Parkside Lodge #218 were both chartered in 1920.

On May 20 of that year, the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New Jersey assembled in Logan Memorial Presbyterian Church prior to chartering Audubon Lodge. No doubt the banquet site, which had to be large enough to accommodate the 100+ Masons, was secured through the aid of Rev. George Kane, Charter Chaplain of the lodge and pastor of Logan Memorial. After the meal, they all marched in a body to Schnitzler's Hall at the corner of Pine St. and E. Atlantic Ave to constitute Audubon Lodge #218.

It was a logical place to meet. Built in 1895 by Charles Schnitzler, who would later become the first mayor of Audubon and a member of Audubon Lodge, the hall was, among other things, the first home of Defender Fire Company, the first meeting place of Audubon Methodist Episcopal Church outside the home of James (Pop) Caskey (who would also become mayor and a member of Audubon Lodge) and the borough's first movie theater. The lodge put a deposit on the building, with Brother and Mrs. Schnitzler holding the mortgage.

Grand Lodge met in the Camden Masonic Temple (which once stood at 4th and Arch Sts.), on June 4, and after the banquet went upstairs to the lodge room to constitute Parkside Lodge #217. All the charter members lived in the Parkside section of Camden, hence the lodge's name.

The effects of the Great Depression hit Audubon Lodge almost at once. In March, 1930, the lodge had to face the fact the Trustees had no money to pay the mortgage. Brother and Mrs. Schnitzler took back the property.

A year later Audubon Lodge moved to a new meeting place, the second floor of the Audubon National Bank building at the corner of Merchant St. and W. Atlantic Ave. No doubt the choice of location was influenced by Charles F. Wise, Audubon Lodge's second Worshipful Master. A former Freeholder and Camden County Clerk, Brother Wise was also co-founder and first president of Audubon Bank.

During WWII, 16 members of Parkside Lodge and 20 members of Audubon Lodge served in the military. Brother Fred Walker, of Audubon Lodge, died during basic training in March, 1943. He would be the only service member of either lodge to die during the war. (There is nothing recorded for either lodge of any member serving in Korea or Vietnam. Two members of Audubon-Parside served in Desert Storm. None have served in the current conflicts.)

In early 1946, Audubon Bank, wanting new tenants for the second floor who would pay higher rent, asked Audubon Lodge to find a new meeting place. The search took place with surprising slowness, since the Audubon Masonic Temple Association wasn't incorporated by the state until February, 1950. On December 5, 1951, the Temple Association obtained title to the old Highland Theater, which had been closed for several years. This building is right next door to Audubon Lodge's original meeting place.

The conversion work began on Staturday, January 12, 1952. Every night was a work night, as was all day Saturday and half day Sunday. The seats were removed. Some were sold. Others were restuffed and recovered. The wooden armrests were sanded down and recovered with new varnish.

The raked floor of the theater was leveled, the concrete slabs supporting the floor were broken up and carted out wheel barrowful by wheel barrowful. The wood planks were removed and as many as possible were later reused.

What is now the kitchen and dining area was originally the furnace room. The old heavy furnace was cut up and removed--not an easy task-- and sold for scrap. A new room for a more efficient furnace was then dug, one shovelful at a time.

Slowly the new interior took shape. Upright wood beams would be installed, electrical wiring added, and then boarded over to create a wall. Doors would be installed in empty archways. Plumbing would be installed and the water turned on. Paint would be applied. The seats would be attached to the lodge room floor.

The lodge was fortunate that where the law required a licensed professional to do the work a lodge member was available to volunteer his services. Except for the bricklayer to block up most of the outside exits, a roofer to do some repairs, and contractors to apply the Formstone on the front of the building, the members of the lodge did all the renovations.

The first meeting Audubon Lodge held in Audubon Masonic Temple was on Friday, November 19, 1954. Except for the Worshipful Master's chair, there is no documentation of furniture moved from "over the bank" to the new meeting place. The other chairs for the elected line officers were donated to Audubon Lodge the night of the first meeting. One of them was donated by the Masonic members of Murray-Trout American Legion Post 242.

While the new Audubon Masonic Temple proved an asset to Audubon Lodge and the other organizations meeting there, the old Camden Temple was becoming a growing problem for its organizations and members because parking was on the street and vandalism was growing in the area.

Parkside Lodge moved to a new location, meeting in Collingswood Masonic Temple for the first time on January 4, 1968. Arthur E. Armitage, Sr., Mayor of Collingswood and member of Parkside Lodge, officially welcomed the lodge to its new home. Mayor Armitage served as Mayor of Collingswood for 33 years, then a national record for service.

But growth was difficult for Parkside Lodge and by 1988 the members had to search for a lodge to consolidate with. Audubon Lodge proved agreeable. On April 13, 1989, Grand Lodge officially consolidated Audubon Lodge #218 and Parkside Lodge #217 into Audubon-Parkside Lodge #218. A year and a half later Audubon Masonic Temple Association was dissolved and the lodge took title to Audubon Masonic Temple.

Audubon-Parkside lodge stands like the Roman god, Janus, looking back and forward at the same time.

Audubon-Parkside Lodge #218---as of 2010--90 years of history looking to the future.


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