Manchester History Walk
In November, about 3 dozen history buffs joined town historian Susan Barlow on a short walk in downtown Manchester. We met at town hall and walked by Center Congregational Church, the former Lincoln School (now Lincoln Center), and the former Post Office (now Weiss Center). The Weiss Center is on the Register of National Historic Places. It was built during the Great Depression as a WPA Project.
The walk’s highlight was a tour of the Masonic Lodge, built in 1926 and available for purchase today.
Initially, the Masons met in a different building on this site. A fire damaged the building in 1913, and it was moved to Birch St. That Birch St building is still in use today. Would you happen to know which building it is?
The Masonic Lodge is the oldest fraternal organization in Manchester. It continues to be active, but membership has dwindled over the years. The building is up for sale.
Some Masons are also Shriners. The Masons sponsor Shriners Hospitals and MasonicCare facilities, providing skilled nursing, behavioral health, independent living, assisted living, and hospice care. The international organization spends about $1 billion per year on charity.
Each of the four walls in a Masonic Lodge meeting room is labeled with a direction – north, south, east, and west. The east is the focal point of the lodge, and during meetings, the master sits in the east (which is also sometimes actually east).
The second in command sits in the west, and the third in the south. Members can sit anywhere in the other seats. No one of importance sits in the north. In the room pictured below, however, there is an organ in the north.
The lodge has other interesting architectural features, including stained glass windows and real gold on some wall decorations.
After the tour of the Masonic Lodge, the group crossed the street and talked about Orange Hall and the Washington Social Club. The Orange Lodge was started in 1883 by mill workers who were immigrants from Northern Ireland. The property was purchased for $400 in 1900 and paid off by members contributing 5 cents out of their weekly pay. In 1901, Orange Hall was built for $1200. In 1923, the members wanted a social club, so the building out back was constructed and became the Washington Social Club. The Manchester Bagpipe Band practices upstairs in Orange Hall. At one time, the building had a grocery store downstairs.
On the corner of Main and Center is the gravestone for a building built by the Independent Order of Oddfellows. The building was demolished when the intersection changed from a traffic circle to its current configuration.
The tour concluded with a discussion of the Civil War Statue on the other side of Main St. and the probate court, which used to be the police department with cells in the basement. The cells are still there.