MARIETTA — Residents will get a rare peek inside Marietta’s historic Masonic Temple today when the lodge opens its doors to the public for tours and exhibits showing off its 170-year history.
When they enter, they will see not only a history of the lodge, but of Marietta itself.
Some of the famous names in Marietta that have been Masons include the Brumbys, Northcutts, Baldwins, Groovers, Gobers, Blairs, Hancocks and Daniels.
“A lot of your old-time, influential members of the community have been members, and still are members, of the lodge,” said Jack Johnston, worshipful master of the Kennesaw Lodge #33 at 547 Roswell Street.
Visitors today will be treated to tours of the temple and a presentation by lodge historian Jan Giddens, who will trace the lodge’s lineage back to its founding in 1843, when the city of Marietta was barely 10 years old.
Many of the city’s sheriffs, including current Sheriff Neil Warren, its judges, mayors and police chiefs have been members of this elite fraternity, said Johnston.
The event coincides with the marking of Kennesaw Lodge’s 170th anniversary, dating back to Nov. 9, 1843, when it received its charter from the Grand Lodge of Georgia.
The lodge got its name “Kennesaw” because back in 1843 there were few landmarks in Marietta other than the ancient mountain rising just to the northwest of downtown.
“That was 45 years before the city of Kennesaw was founded and 123 years before the ‘Big Chicken’ became a local landmark,” Giddens said.
Kennesaw Lodge is one of the state’s oldest and largest Masonic lodges, with its first known meeting place being the third floor of a building on the south side of the Square in the 1850s, the site of the old First National Bank. They remained at that site until 1910 when the building was sold.
During the Civil War, the building was spared the torch “because of its Masonic connection,” according to Giddens.
This was a common practice during the war as men from both sides were members of various Masonic orders, and mercy was shown to “brothers” who minutes earlier had been enemies, he said.
The lodge was looted but the building itself was spared.
The lodge moved to the third floor of the old City Hall where they met until the current Masonic hall was constructed in 1952, at 547 Roswell St. on the corner of Fairground Street east of the Square.
One of Georgia’s largest lodges
The lodge has consistently ranked among the largest lodges in the state, said Johnston.
“We’ve got roughly 350 members, we’re the second or third largest Masonic lodge in the state,” Johnston said. “We were the No. 1 largest at one time, but we’ve lost some members in recent years.”
The lodge will open its doors starting at 12 p.m. today, Johnston said, with the tours and programs running from 2 to 4 p.m.
To become a member of the lodge, a man must make a request or “petition” of the group.
“You petition the lodge and whoever signs your petition has to have known you for a year, and then petitions are investigated and balloted on secret ballot and then they can start their degree work,” Johnston said. “We are a blue lodge, which is the base of Free Masonry.”
The blue lodges are where a man starts his Masonic journey.
“You grow off of the blue lodge, into the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shriners, that’s an extension of Masonry where you have more learning,” Johnston said. “It’s just a higher degree of Masonry. You have to be a blue lodge Mason before you can venture into any of the other orders.”
Questions about religious affiliation
Johnston said Masons often get questions from people who believe they are part of a religious cult, a belief that has been fueled by some of the films coming out of Hollywood. But Free Masonry is not a religious organization, he said.
“You read a lot of stuff out on the Internet, you read a lot of stuff that’s not true. People look at Masonry as a cult, it’s not. We believe in a supreme being,” he said. “We have members of all religions in our lodge. We don’t dwell on a man’s religious beliefs; all a man has to believe in is a supreme being.”
Besides religion, there is the issue of secrecy that many find fascinating or perhaps a bit frightening, an aspect that has, again, been played up in films and best-selling books about secret societies.
On the issue of secrecy, Johnston would only say “certain parts of it, yes, there are certain parts of our work that are not in writing.”
He stressed the many good works done by Masons over the years, such as the children’s home operated in Macon since 1904, the Shriners Hospitals and the GA CHIP (child identification program) sponsored by Masons that collects fingerprints and DNA to store in a nationwide database used to combat missing and exploited children.
As the worshipful master, Johnston said he is like the chief executive or head of the board of directors, and his one-year term is up in December.
“I’ve been a Mason for 59 years and I’m 80 years old,” he said.
He retired in 1995 from Colonial Pipeline Co.
Johnston said all are welcome to today’s open house celebration.
Refreshments will be served.
170 years of Masonic history
WHAT: Open House with tours and refreshments at Kennesaw Lodge #33, 547 Roswell St. on the corner of Fairground St., Marietta, celebrating its 170th anniversary.
WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. today.
MORE: Kennesaw Lodge #33 is one of the oldest and largest Masonic Lodges in Georgia with about 350 members and history dating to Nov. 9, 1843.