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The Jewish Temple was born Masonic

Brotherhood and sisterhood are becoming passé, if club memberships are any indication. Fraternal and civic groups of all kinds have shrunk. College fraternities and sororities are losing their appeal. Even church membership is waning.

Some Burlington staples are bucking the trend and doing well. The Legion and VFW are going strong. So is the Swim & Tennis Club off Center Street. But others have weakened quite a bit. The Knights of Columbus has lost its Burlington headquarters and hundreds of members. It uses space in St. Malachy Parish for its occasional meetings. Burlington’s Freemasonry is also shrinking. The Simonds Lodge, formed in 1955 in the attic of the UCC, peaked in the mid-1980s with 140 members. Now it’s down to 65 people, and it has finally merged with the Parkman Lodge in Woburn.

But Burlington Retro lives in the past. Here’s the lodge in its heyday, breaking ground for a short-lived headquarters at 16 Lexington Street. Lodge Master Walter “Whitey” Graham, a developer by trade, built the structure in the mid-1970s. Look familiar?

Masonic Temple construction, Burlington MA. (Burlington Times Union photo)

The new HQ opened in 1976 with this ceremony:

Simonds Lodge program Burlington, MA

Walter Graham speaking at Masonic Temple, Burlington MA

Walter Graham at Masonic Temple II, Burlington MA

Walter Graham in full Masonic regalia, Burlington MA
Master Walter Graham
Simonds Lodge lineup, Burlington MA
Front row — Walter Graham, Frank Leiblin, Ian Atherton, John Bartlett, Gordon Thompson and Frank Bartlett. Back row — Peter Simmons, unknown, Carl Hemmington, unknown.
Simonds Lodge officers, Burlington MA
Senior Warden Ian Atherton (left), Master Walter Graham and Junior Warden Frank Leiblin
Simonds Lodge duo, Burlington MA.
Frank Leiblin (l) and Walter Graham

But trouble soon began at 16 Lexington Street. Money troubles. “The heating bills were killing us. The price of natural gas was astronomical at the time,” says Bruce Judson, a longtime Lodge member. “We were struggling to stay afloat just to pay that bill.” Land records show court-ordered payments to Shawmut County Bank and Boston Edison.

After some very expensive winters, the Masons sold the building to Temple Shalom Emeth for $180,000 in 1980.

Temple Shalom EmethThe Simonds Lodge still meets in Burlington periodically, at the Presbyterian Church on Cambridge Street. And it still does good things for the community, such as scholarships, hospital visitation support for members, and a medical equipment exchange program every Saturday morning at Cummings Park in Woburn.

Simonds Lodge historical roster Burlington MA

Thanks to Jeff DiBona and the Graham family for these images.


8 thoughts on “The Jewish Temple was born Masonic Leave a comment

  1. Fun fact – the original property at 16 Lexington St was where my grandparents lived. They rented it from a man named Early. After my grandfather passed away, the town took possession since Mr Early had passed away and there was no known family. I spent much time there in the little 4 room house with the pear tree by the driveway and the wringer washing machine on the back porch, and the wood fired furnace under the house.

  2. I remember when they started using the attic of the church. I was in the 5th grade and we had Sunday School in that area that they renovated on Sundays. I can still see the powder blue rug. Also I never knew what happened to Whitey Graham. He died before our high school 50th reunion. All I can remember about him was that he pulled a hunk of my hair out when we were on the school bus when we were in the 3rd grade. I forget why he did it but I sure remember that it hurt. That happened almost 70 years ago why do I still remember it?

  3. Hey norahsgrammie, I grew up across the street at 15 Lexington St. I remember the house you mention. We always called it the Jacksons House. I seem to recall someone had a horse they would exercise by running it in a circle next to the house?

    • Yes my grandfather was Henry Jackson. I don’t remember the horse but it might have belonged to the Gurney’s next door. They had all kinds of animals sometimes. I remember playing with their goats once.

      • Mr. Jackson was my bus driver when I was in Jr High and High School. When I was in the 8th grade we were at the Union School and we were his third route. I think that he was the only one who had three routes but ours was a very short one since there were so many of us on Lexington Street. We waited and waited one day at the school and the bus never showed up so we just walked to his house (he had forgotten about us). He got the keys to the bus and took us home. If that happened today I’m sure that the police would be called because we were late getting home.

  4. Though we lived in Burlington, my father worked in Bedford and was a member and Master of that lodge. The Masons have always been a great charitable organization. My father, realizing at a time in his life that change was necessary for him and the world, worked to integrate lodges.

  5. I have no idea who my school bus driver was, lol; the only name I might know of was Richard Turpin, I think his wife worked at RCA, think her name was Alice.

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