Postcards from the Past: Masons build a legacy in Hyattsville
BY PEGGY DEE — In the 45 years I’ve lived in Hyattsville, I have always had a curiosity about the stately, red-brick building on the corner of 43rd Avenue and Gallatin Street. Thanks to neighbors Ruth and Cecil Ramsey and Larry Hinds, I had a very thorough tour of the structure in mid-June and learned that it is an active Masonic Lodge.
As you may know, Freemasonry is fraternal organization that hundreds of years ago was tied to stonemasons, but now exists in many forms with an estimated worldwide membership of six million.
Here in Hyattsville, the Mt. Hermon Lodge No. 179 houses 146 active Masons as well as the Ruth Chapter No. 7 Order of the Eastern Star, a coed group with 155 members. The Lodge, which derives its name from Mount Hermon in Syria, was established in 1882. Early local members included some names that may be familiar, such as Calvert, Magruder and Ager. Today, the Lodge continues to serve the community through philanthropy and the development of good men.
Its first meeting place was an old school in Bladensburg. A controversy arose on the amount of rent being paid and on August 5, 1885, the Lodge decided to find quarters elsewhere. Hyatts Hall was selected and on January 6, 1886, the Lodge held its first meeting in Hyattsville.
On June 16, 1891, the Lodge accepted a free offer of the lot where the present temple now stands. The cornerstone of the new building was laid May 2, 1893. The Lodge moved into the new temple on March 3, 1896.
In taking the tour, I was enthralled to see the main hall where meetings and ceremonies are held. Participants come from all over the state of Maryland. A glass case outside the main hall contains valuable items that relate to the history of Freemasonry. The gorgeous vestments that are worn by the members at these special occasions, indeed, tell a story.
Inside the hall are pieces of local history. Along the walls are theater-style folding chairs that originally belonged to the old Hyattsville movie theater on Route 1.
The building has ties to other landmarks in Hyattsville’s history as well. In the 1940s, the First Baptist Church was across the street from the Lodge and used the building for some of their Sunday School classes. The front of the building, near the Gallatin Street entrance, was used as a holding or storage area by the Post Office for Hyattsville and Riverdale.
Freemasonry offers much to its members, and we are so fortunate to have them as our neighbors in Hyattsville. For more information or tours, please call 301.927.1790.