It pays to look up beyond the store window. Here, you’ll find the square, compass and “G” — Geometry, God, Great Architect of the Universe — that mark this as a home of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. King Hiram’s Lodge, which received its charter in 1795 from Paul Revere, is the oldest continuously operating institution in town. Its members are so tied into town history that its rolls read like a directory of street names: Atkins (and Mayo), Atwood, Conant, Cook, Dyer, Freeman, Johnson, Ryder, and Young. Members still meet in an ornate lodge room adorned by nearly life-sized trompe-l’oeil Masonic symbols, like a virgin weeping over a broken column.
The first meeting was held in 1796 at what James Theriault identified as 292 Commercial in his indispensable memoir, Every First Monday: A History of King Hiram’s Lodge. Being Masons, members lost no time getting to work on their lodge. It still stands. Theriault places it at 119 Bradford, but a case can be made for 118 Bradford. Anti-Masonic fever forced the lodge underground for a time, after which it met briefly in the Odd Fellows’ hall at 96 Bradford before opening this magnificent home in 1870, with a lodge room on the third floor, a banquet hall on the second, and income-producing commercial space on the first. (The stores use the address 222 or 224 Commercial. Cape Tip Sportswear is the current tenant. Brownell’s Pharmacy and J. Arthur Lopes’s menswear store were among its predecessors.)
By 1971, the base of the building was in such a state of disrepair, it appeared that 2 Masonic Place might have to be abandoned. However, Robert Gutzler of the Town House Restaurant proposed removing the badly damaged first floor altogether and lowering the remaining structure, mansard roof and all, down to new foundations. Financing for this operation came from the sale of the old Anchor and Ark Club, 175 Commercial.
King Hiram’s Lodge was intimately involved with the construction of the Pilgrim Monument and its dedication. Masons furnished the trowel used in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt to lay the cornerstone. It’s still in the possession of the lodge. So there were happy days in 2007 and 2010 when the centenaries were celebrated of the cornerstone laying and dedication, Masons occupied a place of honor both times, unmistakable in their lambskin aprons, purple ties, and top hats. Or tricorne, as was worn by Grand Master Roger Pageau of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, at the center of the picture above.
More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.