From the Archives: 50 Anniversary of the NMJ Cornerstone Laying

May 17, 2024

A special thanks goes out to the staff at the Scottish Rite Museum and Library for their work on this article! To view more work from them, click here!

This March marks the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts. The ceremony took place just a little more than a year before the museum opened to the public. Much to our delight, a 15-minute film of the March 10, 1974 event was made and still exists today in our Library & Archives collection.

The Museum & Library recently had this 16mm film of the event digitized and you can now watch the entire 15-minute film here.

The 1974 Proceedings of the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, included a description of the ceremony:

A little more than a year after the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Museum and Library complex occurred, the gray granite cornerstone, gift of the Scottish Rite Masons of New Hampshire, was placed officially with ancient ceremonies conducted by the officers of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, with Grand Master Donald W. Vose presiding.

Some 400 participants and spectators were on hand on a clear but blustery Sunday afternoon for these traditional cornerstone exercises. Active and Emeriti Members of the Supreme Council, who had been in Boston on the preceding days for the Mid-winter Executive Session, served as hosts for the occasion…

In addition to Masonic dignitaries, the ceremony also included representatives of the Town of Lexington, as well as Hugh Shepley from the architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, and Walter Creelman from Turner Construction Company.

Preceding the outside cornerstone laying event, Donald Vose, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, gave remarks in the museum’s unfinished lobby. Forty-six “distinguished Masonic guests,” as well as many representatives of the Supreme Council all placed “selected items to be preserved for posterity in the cornerstone box. A wide selection of historical documents and Masonic memorabilia and artifacts were sealed inside the cornerstone…” A list of the contents of the box was printed in the 1974 Proceedings of the Supreme Council.

Following the outdoor cornerstone laying ceremony, the guests reassembled in the lobby, where Sovereign Grand Commander George A. Newbury, 33° delivered remarks. Newbury was the visionary and driving force behind the founding of the museum. In a speech he delivered at the 1972 Annual Session of the Supreme Council, Newbury spoke of his vision:

Our objective is to set up at Lexington a museum and a library devoted primarily to the visual and auditory presentation of facets of American History which will stimulate a lively interest in it and an appreciation of the tremendous achievements of those who founded our Country, established her form of government, developed her institutions and economy, and performed the miracle of bringing her from a scattered group of weak and struggling colonies to a place of World leadership in the phenomenally short period of two hundred years.

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