Masonic Home of Florida History

The following article is from "History 1830 -1998, Volume Four, A Topical History", by
M:.W:. J. Roy Crowther, P.G.M. and published by The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free And Accepted Masons Of The State Of Florida and is used with permission.

The Masonic Home and Orphanage

The Masonic Home and orphanage was conceived in the mind of Brother Albert Waller Gilchrest of Punta Gorda Lodge NO. 115 and first presented to the Grand Lodge in Annual Communication in 1902.
Ground work for such an undertaking was immediately laid, with the appointment of a Special Committee to contact the lodges of Florida and gather their opinions and support. The lodges were advised that if such an undertaking was pursued, each lodge would have the right to offer indigent and aged Masons or the orphan children of Masons, as guests in this home. The object of such a venture was to be a permanent home and guardianship for those who had a claim on Masonic relief. This Masonic Home would take some relief out of the hands of the Particular Lodges and place it in the united efforts of the Craft as a whole.
In the Grand Lodge of 1903, Brother Gilchrest offered a resolution that a Special Committee be appointed to solicit aid and receive subscriptions for the “Masonic Home and Orphanage.” After a full discussion on this subject another resolution was presented and adopted. This resolution called for positive steps in the establishment of a Home and Orphanage; that there be a fifty cents per capita assessment for the establishment of a “permanent fund” to build such a home; that the Grand Lodge add treasury surplus to the permanent fund; that a Board of Trustees for investment of the permanent fund be established; that his Board of Trustees also solicit and investigate a location for the home, and that this Board will report annually, to the Grand Lodge, until a home is established.
In January, 1905, the Board reported to the Grand Lodge that the Fund had a balance of $5,273.90 with subscriptions promised for another several thousand dollars. In 1906, this Fund contained almost eight thousand dollars and in 1907, more than eleven thousand dollars. By Grand Lodge of 1912, Most Worshipful Albert Gilchrist, had completed his first year as our Grand Master, was also serving as the governor of the State of Florida and the Special Fund was approximately twenty thousand dollars. M:. W:. Gilchrist reported in 1913 that the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons had donated $1,500.00 and donations from the Order of the Eastern Star were well over eleven hundred dollars. The Fund total was over twenty-three thousand dollars.
By 1916, a committee was appointed to solicit donations of land or other inducements for the location of the Home and Orphanage. Inducements in the form of cash and land were received from Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Palatka, Ocala, Lake Weir, Silver Springs, St. Petersburg, DeFuniak Springs, Zolfo Springs, White Springs, Polk County and Punta Gorda. After consideration was given to all offers, St. Petersburg was chosen as the location to build the new home. However, before plans could be developed to purchase land and build proper facilities, the “Southland Hotel Property” was purchased for t seventy thousand dollars. This offer had been quickly accepted as this property met all the needs of the planned home.

The Masonic Home and Orphanage was dedicated on April 7, 1919. On the same day, the Board of Trustees met for the first time and appointed various committees and officers. The first three children, admitted into the home, were admitted that same month and were Ethna W. Helton-age 13, Max Helton-age 11 and Earle Helton-age9. These three children were all admitted through Barrett Lodge No. 43 of Live Oak, Florida.
By 1930, when the Grand Lodge was celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary and our Masonic Home at St. Petersburg was approximately eleven years old, there had been two hundred sixty-six (266) guests accepted into that home and one hundred twenty-five (125) were still in residence at the home. Twenty-three (23) were on non-resident relief; of which twelve (12) were children and eleven (11) were adults. Of the one hundred forty-eight (148), fifty-five (55) were boys, fifty-seven (57) were girls, nineteen (19) were men and seventeen (17) were women. Of the one hundred (100) children being cared for in residence at the home eighty-three (83) were attending school, two (2) were working and fifteen (15) were to o young for school.
The children were all given well-rounded educations to prepare them for adult life. According to their talents in addition to their religious and public school educations, they were instructed in Orchestra, Band, Piano, Expression, Painting, Drawing, Business, Printing, Radio, Mechanical, Woodworking and Home Economics such as Cooking and Sewing.
Soon after the dedication of this new facility, the board of Trustees recommended to the Grand Lodge of 1920, that the name of the Masonic Home and Orphanage be changed to “The Masonic Home o Florida” and so it was.
On May 18, 1921, the five McQueen children, John, Fletcher, Margaret, Thomas and Mary were admitted to the home. It is important to note that one of these children, Fletcher, grew into manhood and after becoming a member of the Masonic Fraternity, served in numerous capacities including that of Grand Master of Florida. These children had been admitted through Eugene Lodge NO. 173 of Cross City.
Through the years, the number of adult guests in the home remained fairly constant with a small increase as the years passed. However, with children as our main concern, in the early years, their numbers grew rapidly until the years of prosperity which came with World War Two. From 1941 to 1942, the number of children in the home dropped from 89 to 34 and in 1946 there were only 8 left to our care. Due to the improved available help for orphan children, these numbers continued to dwindle and our last child was discharged from the home on June 3, 1956. This was Mary Virginia Allen who had entered the home on August 13, 1941 through Holyrood Lodge No. 257.
It is this writer’s understanding that should we as Masons have need to care for orphan children, we will see that they are placed in private homes rather than being placed in an institution, even one with such a successful history as our Masonic Home of Florida.

The Masonic Home of Florida

One might consider this chapter a sequel to the previous chapter, “The Masonic Home and Orphanage.” While these two chapters could have been written as one chapter, I felt that it would be proper to recognize our Home in the two different images which it has portrayed. The previous chapter, “The Masonic Home and Orphanage,” gives more detail to the beginning of our Home and points out that it was original intended more for children than for adults.
This chapters is much more in detail and tries to elaborate on the changes as they have taken place. This chapter will show the transition of our Home, from primarily a home for children to primarily a home for adults.
In the beginning, or Masonic Home had the original building, “The southland Hotel,” and about four-fifths of the land which makes up our Masonic e Home Property today.
This land was recorded as blocks 41, 42, 49 and 50 of the “Snell and Hamlett’s coffee Pot Addition.” Our property was bordered by 34th Avenue N. on the North, Oak Street on the East, 32nd Avenue N. on the South and 1st Street N. on the West.

The following picture is the original building, the Southland Hotel, as it appeared when the Grand Lodge of Florida purchased it on July 2, 1918.


masonic home

Masonic Home And Orphanage, St. Petersburg, Florida

In the early years of our Home, it was decided that additional property, farm property, would provide a means of training for some of the young people in the Home and also be a sound financial investment for our Grand Lodge. IN 1926, the Board of Trustees for the Masonic Home purchased a forty acre farm, at a cost of five thousand dollars.
This property was purchased from the Allen-Fuller corporation on November 20, 1926 and was described in the deed as follows: “Lots One (1), Two (2), Three (3), and Sixteen (16) in the Southwest Quarter (SW ¼ ) of Section Nine (9), township thirty (30), Range Sixteen (16), County of Pinellas, State o Florida, according to the map of Pinellas Groves as recorded Plat book 1, on page 55 of the public records of Pinellas County, Florida, being the Northeast Quarter (NE ¼ ) of the Southwest Quarter (SW ¼) of Section Nine (9), Township Thirty (30) South, Range Sixteen (16) East.”
The farm was to serve the Home as a Dairy Farm and by 1930, an additional $11,502.59 had been spent on the far for clearing, fencing and other improvements. The farm did not materialize as a worthwhile venture and in September of 1930, it was disposed of for $7,500. This amount was to be paid for in milk, delivered to the Masonic Home. One of the reasons given for disposition of the farm was, “it is too distance from the Home.”
In the early years of our Masonic Home, the children outnumbered the adults, four to one. It was soon determined that the joyful activities of the children deprived the older guests of the quietness which they enjoyed in their declining years.
In 1927, with previous approval of the Grand Lodge, arrangements were being made to erect another building. This building would be known as the “Home or the Aged and Hospital Facilities.” The original plans proposed an expense of one hundred thousand dollars to build such a facility. At a meeting of the Board of Trustees, on June 4, 1927, the Special Building committee was authorized to carry out the proposed plans and soon after, this project was begun.
On October 8, 1927, testing and laying f the cornerstone by Most Worshipful Benjamin E. Dyston, Grand Master, assisted by Sister Angie Jamison Mank, Worthy Grand Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star, was accomplished. At an earlier hour, three P.M., the Grand Lodge of Florida had been opened in the James Carnell Chapel and at the same hour, the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Ea stern Star was opened in the Blue Room of the Masonic Home.
By 1928, this new addition to the Masonic Home was complete and the aged residents moved into the new building. This left the main building, the original hotel property, for use by the children only. The new facility had been competed for $96,983.55 but this price did not include furnishings. This building, in later y ears became known as the Administration Building and has only recently been demolished.

The following picture is the new building at the time of completion.

masonic home



By Grand Lodge of 1931, the net worth of the Masonic Home was set at $243,699.57. This value covered all Masonic Home Property as follows: The original hotel property and out buildings, including furniture, fixtures, tools and original purchase costs, the new building (Home for the Aged and Hospital Facilities), together, with furniture and fixtures, available lots in the Royal Palm Cemetery, swimming pool at the Home, automobiles, trucks and school bus, Laundry Machinery and Printing presses and accessories.
At this time in our Masonic Home History, 1931, the cost of operating the Home, for the previous year and for an average of (151) guests, was $42,177.89. This averages approximately $279.00 per person per year of $23.25 per month per person.
Our Grand Lodge Proceedings for 1931, shows that “the following lots were presented to the Home as a gift, by Brother Charles Edwards of St. Petersburg, to-wit: Lots 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of Rowe’s Re-Plat of Lots 36 to 41 inclusive and 42 to 54 inclusive of the Central Land and title Company’s re-plat of same. These lots are located on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, near 17th Street, and should be worth at the present time, 1931, around $20,000.00.”
In the later passages of this history, these lots will be traded for property directly in front of the new Home building.
At the 1933 Annual Meeting of the grand Chapter of Florida, Order of the Eastern Star, the Grand Chapter authorized funds to erect a Superintendent’s Home on the Masonic Home Property. Before Grand Lodge of 1934, this Home was complete and in us by the Superintendent and his family. The Cost of this building was $5,775.00. The current Worthy Grand Matron, Sister Leona Faircloth, furnished the Superintendent’s Home with funds from her Special Fund. Inasmuch as this building and its furnishing were furnished by the Grand Chapter of Florida, Order of the Eastern Start, the house was known as the “O>E>S> Building.” This is the same home which we have used as the Superintendent’s Home for fifty-nine years and still serves for that purpose.
Our Grand Lodge Proceedings of 1936, tell us that, “After trying for a long time to acquire the property directly in front of the new unit of the Home, at last we were able to trade the property which was given the Home some time ago by Brother Charles Edwards, member of St. Petersburg Loge No. 139. In making this trade we obtained the property across the street in front of the Home and received Snell and Hamlett’s Coffee Pot Addition. This brought the south side of our Masonic Home property down to 31st Avenue N so that our Masonic Home property now braced Blocks 41, 42, 49, 50 and 57.
Ground was broken on September 14, 1950, for a Band Pavilion to be known as the “A Wayne Connor Band Shell.” The building of this addition to our Masonic Home was sponsored by contributions from our Masonic Lodges, the order of the Eastern Start and from the Order of Rainbow for Girls. The Band Shell was completed and dedicated on April 1, 1951. The cost of this addition was $4,625.00. This Band Shell was named in honor of Most Worshipful Anthony Wayne Connor who served as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida in 1949.
By April 13, 1951, our Masonic Home was valued at only $235,355.46. This amount included the Land, Buildings. Furniture and Equipment and the available Cemetery Lots previously purchased. Our records indicate that this property was valued at $8,344.11 less than its worth in 1931, (20) years earlier.
IN 1952, with approval of the Grand Lodge, The Trustees of the Masonic Home set in motion a plan to remodel the old building, the Southland Hotel Property. This remodeling would include the addition of a modern infirmary for thirty-six beds. This remodeling was a wonderful addition to the Masonic Home Complex and the Trustees gave the Order of the Eastern Star credit for the first donation to this project. The worthy Grand Matron, Sister Helen Theus, presented that contribution $5,000.00 on April 1, 1952. This infirmary was completed, at a cost of $107,318.93 and dedicated on January 4, 1953.
Soon after this, the last child was discharged form the Home. As mentioned in the chapter o f “the Masonic Home and Orphanage,” this last discharge was on June 3, 1956. Mary Virginia Allen had lived in our Home for fifteen years when she was discharged on this date.

The following picture depicts the original Masonic Home. The Southland Hotel and the multitude of young people who at one time called this their home.

masonic home

At the 1957 Annual Grand communication, the delegates approved and authorized additional building at the Home, as follows: An additional ten rooms in the infirmary remodel upstairs over the James Carnell Chapel and a “Motel Type” twenty room addition. The additional ten rooms for the infirmary and remodeling over the Chapel was soon completed at a cost of $41,993.00.
The Grand Master assumed responsibility for additional costs and approved a twenty-eight room Motel Addition instead of the twenty rooms which had been approved by the Grand Lodge. The contract was executed or (28) rooms, at a cost of $71,353.00 and an additional contact for steam heat at a cost of $13,378.00. The Board of Trustee4s later paid tribute to the Grand Master, Marcus L. Donaldson, for his outstanding achievement in securing the additional funds for this project of twenty-eight rooms. I feel that it behooves me to mention that most of the additional funds for these eight rooms, came from the A.M. Tenny Trust, Scottish Rite Bodies of Miami, Bethlehem Chapter NO. 169, Order of the Eastern Start, the Grand Chapter of Florida, Order of the Eastern Start, the 16th Masonic District Nitram Lodge No. 188, the Florida State Grotto Association and the Masters and Wardens Association of Dade and Broward Counties.
The Annual Proceedings of 1959, show that the Motel Addition was completed and in use, in April, 1958. This facility ran from the West side of the old Hotel Building to the East side of the Home of the Aged. This was an excellent addition to our Masonic Home, inasmuch as it connected with the two buildings, which made up the Home, and our guests could move to any party of our Home without going outside in the weather.
In 1962, another building program was begun and this plan included the building of a new two hundred set dining Room and an ultra modern Kitchen. This new addition was made part of the original building and was in use for thirty years. On October 13, 1963, Most Worship John T. Rose, Jr. presided over the Dedication of this addition. At that time, the new Kitchen and Dining Room was proclaimed as “the finest addition to our Home in many a year.”
The Grand Lodge Budget for 1964-65 included $40,000.00 to construct and furnish an additional eighteen (18) Bed Addition to our infirmary. This had become an urgent necessity, as the number of bed patients had increased to the point where some of them were having to be placed in the Motel Section. This made it extremely difficult for our nurses to properly care for those patients in the Motel Section. This addition was accomplished by constructing these new rooms in the old Building next to the infirmary. On October 11, 1964, Most Worshipful Hobart D. Pelhank, Grand Master, dedicated our new (18) bed addition to the infirmary. The 1965 Proceedings tell us that the furnishings and equipment was paid for by contributions made by Lodges, individuals and other organizations.
At Grand Lodge in 1970, the following was one of the recommendations of the “Masonic Home Long Range Planning Committee,” which was Chaired by Most Worshipful Clyde A. Gleason, past Grand Master: “That an Infirmary Facility of not more than seventy-five (75) beds and of not more than two (2) stories in height, be constructed in the area near the existing dining room facility at a cost of not more than $750,000.00. That the incoming Grand Master be directed to cause plans and specifications to be developed and prepare and proceed with construction and that the existing infirmary facilities be phased out as the new facilities become available.”
The above recommendation was approved by the Delegates in attendance at the 141st Annual Grand Communication.
Less than two years later, the dream of this beautiful addition to our Masonic Home was fulfilled and on February 13, 1972, Most Worshipful Wilbur W. Masters Jr. dedicated the new “Comprehensive Care Center.” This new facility was erected under the supervision of a “Special Building Committee” chaired by Right Worshipful William C. Mitchell. On April 24, 1972, all of the Masonic Home infirmary Patients were relocated to the new facility. The Annual Proceedings of 1973, reflect that the total cost of the Comprehensive Care Center, including furnishings and equipment, was $925,676.07.
The Grand Master of 1972, strongly recommended that the e Masonic Home Long Range Planning committee continue their labors in planning for the best utilization of our acreage at our Masonic Home. At Grand Lodge of 1973, this committee recommended to the Craft, and this recommendation was adopted, that as soon as funds were available, to proceed with the building of a “Personnel Apartment and Utility Area.” This building would provide live-in facilities for Masonic Home employees and utility space for such items as a laundry, storage and other maintenance areas. Design of this facility was finagled by 1974 as follows: The First floor would contain a laundry, dry storage space, a refrigeration room, freezer space, garage, two (2) apartments of twenty-four hour employees, a boiler room a personal laundry for guests and a maintenance shop. The upstairs floor would have twenty-four units for housing our live-in help. The plans and specifications as herein outlined, were approved on June 15, 1974 and during the 1975-75 year, Groundbreaking Ceremonies were held. The Support Facility was completed for a sum of $249,629.86. The City of St. Petersburg authorized the use of our new facility on April 12, 1976.
During 176-77 year , that part of the original Hotel Property, which was more recently used as an infirmary, together with the old Maintenance Sheds, were demolished and our Masonic Home Property appeared to have had a face lift.
As early as 1978, we were receiving reports that our Administration building and Motel Building were reaching obsolescence, due to state licensing requirements. These facilities were also becoming less functional in meeting the everyday needs of our residents in the Home. The Masonic Home Long Range Planning Committee recommended that these facilities be replaced, as soon as money was available.
It was not until grand Lodge 1984, that any further progress was made, in respect to replacing the Administration Building and the Motel Building, with a new modern facility. The Long Range Planning committee recommended a three-story building with administrative facilities on the first floor and guest rooms on the two upper floors The two upper floors would provide fifty-two bedrooms and necessary support rooms. This building would be in the same architectural design as the Comprehensive Care Center and the cost of construction was estimated to be between five and six million dollars. The delegates authorized construction to proceed as funds became available.
The Groundbreaking Ceremony, for the new Masonic Home Building was carried out on April 27, 1985. However, construction was not begun until July of 1986. The Grand Master laid the cornerstone on March 20, 1988, during the Pilgrimage Day Festivities. The new building was occupied and dedicated by Most Worshipful Joe Shurette, on October 16, 1988. While the new building was dedicated and placed into use by our Home Residents, it was not completely finished. The plans for this newest facility include a Chapel, Dining Room and Kitchen and while they are presently under construction, they are not year ready for our Home Residents’’ use.
Our 1969 Proceedings reported that the old building the building originally built as the “home for the Aged and Hospital Facilities,” in 1927-28, had been demolished and that the Grand Master had broke ground for the new Kitchen, Dining Room and Chapel. This is the final phase of our current building program.
In the soon to be future, the Kitchen, dining room and Chapel were completed and occupied. As these new facilities became available, the old dining room, kitchen and the James Carnell Chapel were razed.

The following picture depicts our beautiful new Masonic Home Facilities.

masonic home

In recapitulation, in seventy-three years, our Masonic Home of Florida has grown from a dream to one of the finest Masonic Homes in North America. It is needless to say that that materialization of such a dream required many years of planning, work and material and financial contributions, to bring about what the Masonic Fraternity now has for our Brothers and Sisters who are in need of a Masonic Home.
The “Masonic Home Long Range Planning Committee” has been instrumental in showing the need for continual improvements in our Masonic Home Facilities. This committee was first appointed in 1968 by Most Worshipful Clyde S. McLaren, Grand Master, Past Grand Master Clyde A. Gleason served as Chairman of this committee for the first five years, 1968 through 1972. It was through the initiative of this committee, that our first new building since the nineteen twenties, began to materialize.
Past Grand Master L. Evans Crary, Jr. chaired this committed form 1973 through 1977 and then the following year, 1978. Most Worshipful Brothers Crary and William C. Hill Co-Chaired this important committee. During the next five years, 1979 through 1983, there were no appointments to this committee as the Comprehensive Care Center was serving our needs. In 1984, this commit was called the “Long Range Planning/Facility Committee” and with Brother Joseph Shurette as the Chairman, this committee pressed forward with plans for further modernization of our Masonic Home Facilities. Brother Alfred J. Stephens served as Chairman in 1985, Brother Dale Daniel Lewis chaired the committee form 1986 through 1989 and then Brother Al Stephens served a second year in 1990. Brother Lenny Lorenzo served as Chairman in 1991 and 1992. Brother Maurice M. Dalton in 1993 and then Right Worshipful Lenny Lorenzo has served, very capably, for 1994-1997.