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More of a visual learner? Read the transcript of this week's Galveston Unscripted podcast episode below:
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Founded in 1867, just after the Civil War, the Galveston Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is the oldest in Texas.
Freemasonry on Galveston Island has prospered through epidemics, devastating storms, and fires, although their temples and gathering places have changed through these events. The Galveston Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite has continued to thrive and be invaluable to its membership and community.
Long before Galveston was settled and founded, In 1762, a conference was held at Bordeaux, France, to coordinate and bring under proper Masonic discipline and jurisdiction the many Masonic Degrees that had originated in Europe, especially in France. As a result of the conference, the First to the Twenty-Fifth degrees were instituted, and the Ancient Rite and Constitutional Regulations of Freemasonry were formulated. By the end of the 18th century, degrees of Masonry were added, making the highest rank a 33rd-degree Mason.
The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry was brought to the Western Hemisphere, and in 1801, the Supreme Council was established in Charleston, South Carolina. It consists of four groups, or bodies, that work together for society's general good and the Rite's welfare. The Bodies consist of the Lodge of Perfection, the Chapter of the Rose Croix, the Council of Kadosh, and the Consistory. Each of these bodies holds different levels of power within the degrees of Masonry.
After years of attempting to officially start a Scottish Rite Temple in Texas, a Confederate Civil War Veteran, Albert Pike, summoned the Supreme Council to resume Scottish Rite activities after the Civil War and tasked Philip C. Tucker with becoming the Deputy Inspector General in Texas. This led to San Felipe Lodge of Perfection No. 1 in Galveston, Texas.
The Lodge was founded amid a devastating yellow fever epidemic that shut down the city in early 1867. Of an estimated population of twelve thousand, eight thousand cases were recorded, with the number of deaths reaching eleven hundred.
By 1880, the Lodge experienced an influx of members as Galveston's population was booming, and by 1884, a grand Masonic lodge was built on 21st and Postoffice. The 1900 Storm damaged this Lodge and gave the group reason to set their eyes on a new venue. In 1902, as the city was recovering from the 1900 storm, the Scottish Rite purchased a building used previously as a Jewish community center on 22nd Church Street called Harmony Hall. This building was designed by Galveston's famous Architect, Nicholas Clayton. After an extensive remodel, this building served as the home of the Scottish Rite until a devastating fire in 1928.
The members of the Lodge rescued and preserved what they could until the Art Deco Style Lodge could be built in its place. The new 1929 Scottish Rite Cathedral features a stunning entrance with four large bronze doors, two marble columns, hand-crafted marble walls, and terrazzo floors with colorful designs. The magnificent stage is equipped with high-quality scenery designed by the Great Western Stage Equipment Company and made with the durable Italian "Amorite" technique.
The construction of a new Cathedral was completed with the utmost attention to detail, involving only the highest quality materials and craftsmen. The result was a timeless look for the legacy of Freemasonry that will be admired for generations.
The Galveston Scottish Rite stands as a timeless testament to its members' strength, dedication, and service. From the humble beginnings of its first Lodge in 1867 to its current Art Deco Style structure, the Galveston Scottish Rite has endured through the years, providing its members and community a beacon of hope and resilience. Its impressive design and spectacular grounds serve as a reminder of the power of Freemasonry and its commitment to making a positive impact in the community.