HI Mailbag: Pentalpha Lodge

Written by on September 16, 2014 in Mailbag - 2 Comments
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Reader’s Question:

In a couple of obituaries I’ve read, the people were listed as having been members of the Pentalpha Club.  What was the significance and history of the group?    Was it connected with the Columbia Club?  Only for business women? ~ Carol G., Woodridge, Illinois

HI’s Answer:

The organization about which you have inquired is a club in a manner of speaking, but the word “club” is not part of its name.  Pentalpha is a Masonic lodge.  Its full name is Pentalpha Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons #564.  It was founded in Indianapolis 133 years ago, next month.

Masonic lodges were instituted in Indianapolis in 1848.  The first Indianapolis Masonic Temple was built in 1851 on the southeast corner of West Washington Street and South Tennessee Street (renamed Capitol Avenue in the 1890’s).

On October 10, 1881, twenty-four Master Masons held a meeting in a building at 27½ South Delaware Street, for the purpose of forming a new lodge.   The meeting was convened by Adolph Seidensticker (1831-1895), the highly respected editor of the German language newspaper Indiana Volksblatt and a partner in the law firm of Kappes and Seidensticker.  The first order of business that day was the election of officers.  The initial Worshipful Master of the new lodge, Martin H. Rice (1829-1908), then presided over the remainder of the organizational meeting.

Pentalpha Lodge's first Worshipful Master, Martin H. Rice, appeared in William E. English's History of Masonry in Indianapolis (scan courtesy of the Indianapolis Public Library)

A photograph of Pentalpha Lodge’s first Worshipful Master appeared in  The History of Masonry in Indianapolis by William E. English    (scan courtesy of the Indianapolis Public Library)

Two weeks later, the Pentalpha Lodge was instituted.  Additional officers were also chosen at the October 20, 1881, meeting.  The name proposed for the new lodge was derived from a Pythagorean doctrine.  From the Greek word for five, pente, and the Greek word for the letter A, alpha, a pentalpha is a triple triangle that forms the letter A in five different positions.  It also forms a five-pointed star.  The Medieval Masons considered the pentalpha a symbol of deep wisdom.  It can be found among the architectural ornaments of many Masonic edifices.  The Pentalpha Lodge was officially chartered on May 24, 1882.

The name of the Pentalpha Lodge was derived from the above shape

Pentalpha Lodge’s name was derived from the above shape

 

Page 104 in The Historic of Masonry in Indianapolis, written in 1901 by William Eastin English

Page from 1901 History of Masonry in Indianapolis by William E. English  (scan courtesy of the Indianapolis Public Library)

In the early years of its existence, the Pentalpha Lodge owned no meeting hall of its own.  The group made arrangements to use other lodges’ facilities for its activities.  In 1905, the Pentalpha Lodge and ten other lodges formed the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association.  The eleven-member group purchased the Charles Mayer family’s property on the southeast corner of West North Street and North Illinois Street.  Charles Mayer Sr. (1820-1891) was the proprietor of a popular store on Washington Street that carried toys, home furnishings, antiques, and unique gifts.  Mayer had built a home at 525 North Illinois Street in 1852, which remained in the Mayer family until it was sold to the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association by his daughter, Mathilde Mayer Schnull, in 1907.

1907 Indianapolis Star article describes the sale of the Charles Mayer home to the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association (scan courtesy of newspaper.com)

1907 Indianapolis Star article describes the sale of the Charles Mayer home to the Masonic Temple Association  (scan courtesy of newspaper.com)                     CLICK TO ENLARGE ARTICLE

Over the next year, the constituent lodges raised the funds to build a new temple.  Chairman of the building committee was James W. Lilly.  The architectural firm of Rubush and Hunter was hired to design the structure.  The cornerstone of the Greco-Roman Neo-Classical building was laid on May 25, 1908.

In the panoramic photo below, you can see that in 1908 most of the properties around the building under construction were still single family residences.  The home pictured two doors east (or left) of the new building, 11 West North Street, was owned by Frank W. McDougall.   The home between McDougall’s residence and the new building, 15 West North Street, was owned by Kate O’Brien.  A large single-family home at 536 North Illinois Street can also be seen in the background to the west (or right) of the new building, the owner of which was Jenny Wetherell.

Photo is looking southwest from North Street as the cornerstone for the Indianapolis Masonic Temple was laid on the northeast corner of the building (Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society) CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTO

Photo is looking southwest from the north side of West North Street, as the cornerstone for the Indianapolis Masonic Temple was being laid on the northeast corner of the building   (Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society)                                                         CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE

The cornerstone being laid in the panoramic photo as it appear in present times (2014 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The cornerstone that was laid on the northeast corner of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple in 1908 as it appears today      (2014 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)            CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE

1908 Baist map shows the location of the new Indianapolis Masonic Temple during the year it was constructed (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives) CLICK TO ENLARGE MAP

1908 Baist map shows the location of the new Indianapolis Masonic Temple during the year it was constructed (map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)                                      CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE

One year after ground was broken, the building at 525 North Illinois Street was dedicated on May 24, 1909.  Note in the photo below that many of the openings in the building appear to be functioning windows.  Some are now filled in with slabs of stone.

The Indiana Masonic Temple as it appeared shortly after it was built in 1909 (photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association, Inc.)

Indianapolis Masonic Temple, now known as Indianapolis Freemasons’ Hall, as it appeared soon after it was built in 1909  (photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association, Inc.)

In 1931, the Pentalpha Lodge celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its 1881 founding.

001.1931.06.19.Indpls.News.Anniversary

Today, the Indiana Freemasons’ Hall is home to fifteen different Masonic lodges, as well as several associated organizations, like the Order of the Eastern Star, Allied Masonic Degrees, Royal Arch, Cryptic Council, and Knights Templar bodies of the York Rite.  The 600-seat auditorium and two ballrooms are available for rent to the public.

The Indianapolis Masonic Temple at 525 N. Illinois Street is home to twelve different lodges (2014 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The Indianapolis Masonic Temple at 525 North Illinois Street is home to Pentalpha Lodge and several other Masonic lodges  (2014 photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Although many Pentalpha Lodge members have also been members of the Columbia Club, there is no relationship between the two organizations.  The Columbia Club was founded in 1889 as a clubhouse for members of the Harrison Marching Society, a group of prominent Indianapolis men who united to help elect Benjamin Harrison to the United States Presidency.

Historically, few women have become Freemasons, but there have in fact been some.  Wives, daughters, and sisters of Masons have typically participated in concordant bodies like the Order of the Eastern Star and Job’s Daughters.

You can view a video of an interview with James R. Dillman, President of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple, by Historic Indianapolis.com’s founder by clicking here.  You can also see additional details and photos of the Indiana Freemasons’ Hall by clicking here.

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About the Author

Sharon Butsch Freeland is a freelance researcher, writer, proofreader, and editor. She's a proud alumna of Shortridge High School and MacMurray College and over the years has also taken courses at Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University, University of Colorado, Colorado Academy of Art, and the Indianapolis Art Center. She's been the executive director of a nonprofit association, a newspaper columnist, a residential real estate broker, and a political campaign staff member. Fascinated by Indianapolis history from an early age, Sharon's passion for bygone eras became even more compelling when she discovered that her ancestors had settled in Indiana in 1828. Since learning that she's a seventh generation Hoosier, many details about both the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis have taken on new meaning for her. Sharon enjoys helping others get excited about the history of Indianapolis, as well as the histories of their own families.

2 Comments on "HI Mailbag: Pentalpha Lodge"

  1. Sandra Jarvis September 18, 2014 at 10:53 am · Reply

    Amazing research! Thank you!!

  2. jerry maple July 4, 2015 at 1:30 pm · Reply

    Also, please feel free to contact me a jmaple@huffsteel.net if you have any further questions regarding Pentalpha Lodge. I am a 21 year member and a 2 time Master of the Lodge.

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