A History of Masons: In Depth

Freemasonry in History

Introduction

The Vancouver Masonic Centre Association has a long and deep-rooted history in British Columbia, with connections dating back over one hundred years. In fact, the first recorded gathering of any Freemasons within BC is said to have been held in Victoria in 1860. Over the decades, more lodges began to form, leading to a total of 130 around the province to date, including Vancouver’s Masonic Centre Association, originally formed in 1911. A century later, the bond between members and the association’s integral connection to Vancouver’s history remains strong.

For a more indepth history of the Freemasons of BC, visit the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.

The Vancouver Masonic Association has evolved right alongside the City of Vancouver, holding a few different titles and several locations.

Freemasons Hall, Moodyville 1869 – 1887

 

According to Masonic historian James Harrison, the Mount Hermon Lodge’s first location was held at the Masonic hall in what is now North Vancouver.

A few years later, the excitement and potential prosperity of the newly growing City of Vancouver enticed the movement of the lodge from the North Shore to Vancouver‚Äôs south side. On February 20th, a unanimous vote allowed Mount Hermon Lodge to relocate to Keefer Hall. Unfortunately, only a few months later in June 1886, the Great Vancouver Fire destroyed much of the city, including the new lodge. The association was forced to return to North Vancouver until another suitable Vancouver location was found on what is now Cordova Street. That location, however, quickly became unsuitable for the exponential growth of membership the lodge was experiencing. Fortunately, the Worshipful Master and the Treasurer at the time were able to aid in acquiring a space for lease, moving the lodge once again, this time to the Springer‚ÄďVan Bramer Building, more commonly referred to as the Masonic hall, in Gastown.

 

Springer -Van Bramer Building 1888 – 1898

 

After a decade, the lodge moved a few more times before finding its permanent spot on 8th and Granville in 1974.

McKinnon Block 1898 ‚Äď 1910

 

1st Vancouver Masonic Temple 1910 – 1974

 

Vancouver Masonic Centre 1974 – 2021

 

Despite the impermanent location of the lodge, membership continued to rise rapidly throughout the decades, peaking at over 27,000 members during the 1960s. While membership has declined in more recent years, currently hovering around 6000, the association remains well beloved.

2022 Vancouver Masonic Centre

The VMCA spent many happy years at this location. As time went on, however, and building maintenance costs continued to rise, a reevaluation of the space was needed. With the demand for affordable housing also on the rise, the VMCA found that they could help the association while also helping the community by stripping the decade-old building down and making space for what could become rental units. A deal with Colliers Development and BC Housing was struck and construction began in 2016. Six years later, in 2022, the development of the new site is almost complete. 

The new centre will be a wonderful gathering space with ample space for a boardroom, festivity room, banquet facility and two Lodge Rooms with storage lockers and parking. It is the hope that this centre will hold visiting members from around the globe. This new building will act as a legacy project with societal impact spanning generations.

The list of notable and influential Canadian Freemasons is long and vast, with some members holding very powerful titles within the province and country, including eighteen Vancouver mayors, thirteen BC Premiers, nine lieutenant-governors, and even six prime ministers.

 

Notable British Columbian members include:

 

  • Nat Bailey, founder of White Spot
  • Hewitt Bostock, founder of the Vancouver Province¬†
  • Robert Butchard, owner of the Butchart Gardens in Victoria
  • Robert James Cromie, founder of the Vancouver Sun



Other notable Canadian members:

 

  • Sir Sandford Fleming, creator of standard time and the first Canadian postage
  • Tim Horton, hockey star and restaurateur¬†
  • James A. Naismith, inventor of basketball¬†
  • John Molson, founder of Molson Breweries¬†
  • John B. Maclean, founder of Macleans magazine
  • Fred ‚ÄúCyclone‚ÄĚ Taylor, Hockey Hall of Fame and Commissioner of Immigration of British Columbia and the Yukon territories

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History of the Masons

1859

First recorded Freemason gathering in BC

1869

Mount Hermon Lodge opens in Moodville, now known as North Vancouver

1886

Mount Hermon moves to Vancouver by unanimous vote on February 20

1886

Great Vancouver Fire destroys much of Vancouver, including the recently moved lodge

1888

Mount Hermon moves again, this time to the Masonic Hall in what is now the Gastown area

1898

Mount Hermon moves again, this time to McKinnon Block on Hastings and Granville

1910

The first lodge hall wholly owned by the Freemasons opens on March 15

1934

The Vancouver Masonic Temple Co. Ltd. forms after changing from a company to a Society

1934

Freemasonry membership was 2% of the entire BC population

1947 to 1962

Lodges increase by 45, membership rose by 16, 593

1966

VMTC Membership peaks at 27,128 members

1967

Due to a defaulted deal with a developer, the VMCA was once again without a home

1971

The VMCA purchases a lot on 8th and Granville for $107,000

1974

The building was completed, costing around $840,000

Now

With declining membership, directors seek to find a new home, ultimately striking a deal with BC Housing

Soon

New building opens