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