A Brief History of King Solomon’s Lodge No. 7 & Masonic Temple
The first Charter was issued to King Solomon’s Lodge No. 7 A.F. & A.M. by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Boston on July 17, 1765. When the Grand Lodge of Connecticut was formed, King Solomon’s Lodge was granted its State Charter on October 6, 1790.
The first meeting of the Lodge was held at the home of Peter Gilchrist in Woodbury on December 27, 1775. Subsequent meetings were held in the homes of various Lodge members, as well as at Kelley Tavern, which is now the Curtis House Inn in Woodbury.
Three months after the original Charter of King Solomon’s Lodge was signed, the first Continental Congress was held and, in 1775, the War of Independence began. Many Lodge members served in the patriot army and the “name of no Tory disgraces the pages of our Ancient Lodge,” according to Worshipful Brother William Cothren, the historian of Ancient Woodbury.
On July 21, 1838, for the sum of $15.00, King Solomon’s Lodge No. 7 purchased the land on which the present Temple stands, from Woodbury resident Ashbel Moody. On August 29, 1838, a meeting was held at which a committee reported that the building of a new “Lodge Room” could not exceed $700.00. It was further decided that when $350.00 was raised by selling subscriptions to the building fund, the committee had permission to “act, contract, etc. for the building of said Lodge Room.”
The Lodge sought permission from Ashbel Moody to transport construction materials across his land. Present at the meeting was Moody’s son-in-law, Levi Douglas, a rabid anti-mason. With no protest from mild mannered Moody, it is reported that Douglas “flew into a violent passion… and, assuming proprietorship, positively refused the request.” The committee determined “that the work should be completed and, accordingly, all the timber and other building materials were hauled to the top over the face of the rock from the street level. The location of the Temple leads the Lodge to refer to Matthew VII:25, “And the rains fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (RSV) The front section of the Temple was erected in 1839. It is the oldest Temple in continuous use in New England.
In June of 1839 a “Committee of Steps” was formed to build a set of steps, with supporting iron rods embedded in the rock, from the street to the front porch of the Temple. The steps are no longer in use. At a cost of $782.41, the Temple was enlarged in 1866. It was determined that the enlargement encroached on the land of Levi Douglas. The latter must have softened his views of Masonry because, for the sum of $15.00 he agreed to sell to the Lodge the encroached upon 2 foot strip of land. The east section and the kitchen were built in 1954. The banquet hall was added in 1975.
The jurisdiction of King Solomon’s Lodge covered the entire Litchfield County and parts of Fairfield and New Haven Counties. It is reported that “Lodge members had to ride or walk from Derby to Woodbury (a distance of over 20 miles), some from New Milford and other places many miles away, to attend the meetings of the Lodge…In those days there was no railroads, no trolley cars, and no automobiles. They had to ford rivers, and travel over rough roads and through swamps to meet with their Brethren.” The early King Solomon’s Lodge had a close relationship with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Woodbury. Many of the members attended worship services there and burial services for several departed Brothers were held in that church. It is reported that “the first settlers of Woodbury were called to attend divine services in the church…by a man who stood on the rock where the Lodge building now stands, beating a drum.” The Alter in the Lodge room was purchased from St. Paul’s Church in 1855. The horns at the four corners of the Alter were presented by Stephen Atwood of Watertown. They are from the first two Merino rams imported by him into the United States from Spain. Justification for the horns was taken from a reference to the ancient alter built for the first Tabernacle, as described in Chapter 38, Verse 2 of the Book of Exodus: “And he made horns thereof on the four corners of it.” (KJV) The chairs in the East of the Lodge room, including that of the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, are on loan from the North Congregational Church in Woodbury. The carpet on the wall in back of the Senior Wardens Chair in the west, is believed to have been purchased around 1870 and remained in use until 1942. There is correspondence in the Lodge records from L. H. Crane of SN&HW Foster Carpet Warehouse in New Haven in which he explains that “It will take between two and three weeks to get it wove.” About 1890, Andrew Sugden, a masonic Brother and a designer with D Curtis Sons of Pomperaug Mills, recognized the carpet as one he had designed many years before while employed by Cheney Brothers of Manchester, Connecticut. He stated that only three carpets were to his knowledge woven from that design. A portion of one of the other carpets is on display in the museum of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut in Wallingford.
This history was compiled by Brother Al Sakavich and the historical references were taken from A History of King Solomon’s Lodge No. 7, A History of Harmony Lodge NO.42, and A History of Masonry in Connecticut by James Royal Case.