Tim Findlay

Tim Findlay

Timeless Tales: Freemasons date to Nanaimo’s earliest days

NANAIMO – Ashlar Lodge No. 3 had charter delayed when ship sank.

To the naked eye, it’s a three-storey building housing Flight Centre, but 101 Commercial Street’s history dates back to the 1800s, according to Tim Findlay, a Nanaimo Freemason.

The landmark downtown Nanaimo building, known as Ashlar Lodge No. 3, is a hall for the Freemasons, a private society originating from the stonemasons.

Findlay, Ashlar Lodge senior warden, said an older lodge existed at the location between 1873 and 1923, when the current building was constructed. It’s a brick building made of locally sourced materials, including sandstone from Newcastle Island. The building is listed on the City of Nanaimo’s heritage register, which describes it as an example of classical period revival architecture.

Freemasons applied for a Nanaimo lodge in 1865. Ashlar Lodge’s charter was delayed after the ship delivering it sank. It finally arrived in 1867.

“They were starting to meet, but it was what we would call unofficial … because they had to wait for their charter to arrive and back in those days, it took three-quarters of a year for things to travel,” he said.

Christine Meutzner, Nanaimo Community Archives’ manager, said the lodge should be classified with some of the Harbour City’s premier buildings, such as the courthouse and Great National Land building.

“It has a very unique ambience inside, unique to that building, but unlike other buildings that have decorative work outside … that building actually wears its history and what it is in its architecture outside. There’s the Masonic symbol on the front,” said Meutzner.

Findlay thinks Nanaimo is a Masonic city, similar to Washington and London. Street layouts conform to Masonic geometry, with a pyramid shape formed in some areas, such as Victoria Road and Albert Street – names of royalty at the time.

“The pyramid goes from Victoria [Road] on one side, Albert Street on the left … and it comes to a truncated street, Cavan Street at the top, and Pine Street is the bottom street or the base,” he said. “We also have Hecate Street coming up the middle to Nob Hill Park, which to me is symbolically the all-seeing eye.”

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