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?
The new HQ opened in 1976 with this ceremony:
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.
The 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.
Thanks to Jeff DiBona and the Graham family for these images.