Historic Masonic Villiage at Elizabethtown
The Masonic Village at Elizabethtown was founded as the Masonic Homes of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1910. The site was chosen because the Pennsylvania Railroad bordered the property; its ease of access to Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Lancaster; availability of local ministers of every denomination; ample pure water supply; and large acreage for cultivation, as well as woods and pasture land. First providing a home and services to aging Freemasons and their spouses, a few years later, in 1913, the first children were accepted for care, beginning what is now called the Masonic Children’s Home. The first adult residents were served in congregate home settings. In 1916, the Philadelphia Freemasons Hospital opened, providing nursing and personal care services; this building has been expanded and renovated and is now known as the Masonic Health Care Center and Freemasons Building. The first retirement living apartments and cottages were opened in 1989. As health care delivery and lifestyles changed over the years, so did Masonic Homes. In 2004, the community changed its name to Masonic Village to better reflect the vast array of services it offers to people of all ages. The 1,400-acre campus has grown into a continuing care retirement community, including residences for more than 1,800, people from apartments and cottages to studios and suites, and a home for adults with developmental disabilities. Additional services include home care, hospice, outreach, transitional care, adult day care, child care, a farm market, wellness center, Veterans Grove, Formal Gardens, pools, ponds, ballrooms, walking paths and countless other amenities for the community to enjoy.
Backstory and Context
On September 3, 1810, Captain John Wolfley organized the first Masonic lodge in Elizabethtown; Amictia #116. In 1814 the Elizabethtown and Marietta masonic lodges merged and, in 1837, dissolved when the Anti-Masonic Party controlled Pennsylvania political establishment. On September 15, 1915, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania constituted Elizabethtown Lodge #682. In 1926, the lodge was named in honor of Dr. Abraham C. Treichler, local attending physician of the Masonic Village.
In 1903 at a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, David A. Sawdey, Perry-Keystone Lodge #392, Erie proposed the idea of locating “homes for the care of our indigent Brethren, their aged wives, widows, and orphan children” at one convenient place in a country setting. In December 1908, the Grand Lodge approved a proposal for the creation of a Masonic Home with the requirements it be centrally located within the state and readily accessible on the main line of a railroad. The Grand Lodge appointed a committee of eleven with authority to “purchase real estate, employ architects, and erect the necessary buildings for a Masonic Home.” The site chosen for the Masonic Village was a series of farms in Elizabethtown on Conoy Creek with eighteen springs. On April 1, 1910, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania took title of 957 acres in Elizabethtown for $134,296.54.
The Grand Lodge Hall was designed by architect Clarence C. Zantzinger from Lodge #610 Philadelphia in conjunction with expert Warren P. Laird, Professor of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. The contractor was John R. Wiggins of Philadelphia and was constructed out of Holmesburg granite, Indiana Limestone, and Wyoming bluestone. The Grand Lodge Hall was dedicated on June 5, 1913. Between 25,000 and 30,000 people attended the dedication. Two years earlier, more than 8,000 people attended the cornerstone laying ceremonies at noon on September 26, 1911. The date was already significant as it marked the 125th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s independence form the Grand Lodge of England. In 1910, the editors of American Architect noted the Masonic Village has the “character of a place of comfort and protection for the members of a family” with aspects of “dignity and hospitality.” Formal gardens, six and a half acres in front of Grand Lodge Hall, were built from 1930 through 1932 by Gustaf E. Malmborg.