Little Falls’ Masonic Temple by Dana Murray

Narrated by Robert Katz, Cooperstown Museum Studies Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, Class of 2019.

Masonic temples dot the towns and cities of New York, the United States, and the world.

They are in grand buildings, post-modern monoliths, or crammed into apartments above storefronts.  Those of us who are not inducted into a Masonic Lodge will never know the secrets of their meetings.  But we can imagine the voices, and music, that once echoed in halls like these.

Little Falls’ Masonic Temple was built in 1914 and inspired by the architecture of the French Medieval Period.

That type of architecture, called French Gothic, produced a number of castles.  Unsurprisingly, this building is often called a castle as well.  But the most famous examples of French Gothic architecture are cathedrals like Notre-Dame in Paris.  Cathedrals like those are full of the songs of choruses and hymns.  And though the songs are different, the Lodge Room of Little Falls’ Masonic Temple once was as well.

Music creates a response in the body and mind.  You may have felt chills or goosebumps when listening to a song you found powerful or beautiful.  Spaces that let sound waves reflect on the walls and bounce around the space are well-suited for music, because they amplify it.  Cathedrals are good examples.  And so is the Lodge Room.  It is 61 by 37 feet, with high vaulted ceilings.  This helps the sound waves bounce through the room without distorting them.

We know that music was often incorporated into different parts of the Masonic ritual.  Many famous composers created “Masonic music.” This music could be important symbolically, but often it was written just for the members of a lodge to sing during meetings, or for important events like funerals.

The members of the Little Falls Lodge have not met here since 2004.

Advances in transportation and shipping technology meant that Little Falls was no longer the industrial and farming hub that let the Masons of 1914 get enough members and money to build such a grand building.  As the years went by, membership fell.  By 1990 Little Falls’ population was less than half the size it was in 1910.  And older members of the Lodge moved away – or died.  The Little Falls Lodge had to sell the building in 1995 and it became a private residence, though they were allowed to keep meeting here until 2004, when they merged with another Lodge.

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