Masonry in Holyoke is quite literally as old as the city itself. On March 14, 1850, the former Ireland Parish was incorporated as the Town of Holyoke. That same day, the Mount Tom Lodge was incorporated by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons.
Masonry organizes its members into Lodges and Chapters, among others, all of whom can share a Temple, the physical building used as a meeting place. And so, three offshoots popped up over the next 70 years in Holyoke. In 1865, just two months after the end of the Civil War, the Mount Holyoke Royal Arch Chapter was formed. Then, in 1909, membership at the Mount Tom Lodge neared 500, and members decided it was time to create a new lodge from the existing membership. In an unusual exception to the rules, the Grand Lodge allowed the new Lodge to be named after a living person, William Whiting II, a Mason for over 40 years who had served as Mayor, State Senator, and a Representative in Congress. Finally, the Mount Nonotuck Lodge incorporated in 1920, only to later consolidate with the William Whiting Lodge in 1939.
The Order of the Eastern Star, the Masonry group open to both men and women, also had a presence in Holyoke, organized as the Robert Morris Chapter No. 51.
The Mount Tom Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter met on the top floors of 203 High Street until 1895 and on the top floors at 280 High Street afterwards. Both buildings stand today, although the upper floors of 280 have been demolished. By 1920, temporary meeting spots no longer sufficed, and Holyoke members raised $150,000 over two weeks to construct a permanent Temple. On September 11, 1920, the three groups met to lay the cornerstone at its current Chestnut Street location, and the dedication ceremony took place just over a year later, on October 22, 1921. The centerpiece of the new building was the meeting room, designed with a lighting system that mimics the rise and fall of the sun, all of which was estimated in 2000 to cost nearly $1.5 million to reproduce. In 1973, after 50 solid years of use, the building underwent major interior renovations.
Social clubs such as the Freemasons were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, many recognizable names in Holyoke were at some point Masons themselves. Here are just a few examples, along with the year they first joined:
William Loomis (1862)
Charles Corser (1864)
Charles Lyman (1865)
George Prentiss (1865)
William Whiting (1866)
William Skinner (1898)
Joseph Wykoff (1899)
Frank Metcalf (1903)
George PB Alderman (1922)
Samuel Resnic (1930)