The Masonic building, Bannack, Montana
There are a number of abandoned buildings that once held lodge rooms that I’ve covered on the blog over the past few months, some that I’ve visited like Woolton Hall in Liverpool, UK, and others that I’ve found in the US. It seems to be an international trend that lodges are seeking more cost-effective venues as some lodges are effected by a reduction in members and merge with other lodges or close entirely. Some buildings however, are worth protecting and preserving, and this particular Masonic building is one of them.
The Masonic building and schoolhouse in the isolated gold old mining town of Bannack in Bannack State Park, Montana, was built in 1874, and looks as rugged and romantic a building as the Silver City Masonic building that I wrote about previously. This was Montana’s first territorial capital, and was probably the early centre of Masonry in the area, so the importance of this building is paramount. With that in mind, one can understand why a historic lodge was chartered in 2000 called the Bannack Lodge (3-7-77) which holds an annual meeting on the second Saturday of September, the lodge, according to its website, has over a thousand members. The number associated with the lodge 3-7-77 has a Masonic and Vigilante significance – and is something traditionally linked to early Masonic activity in Bannack (I may cover the significance of the numbers at a later date!) The first lodge in Bannack can be traced back to 1863, when a dispensation was obtained from the Grand Lodge of Nebraska, but in 1871, the brethren reapplied to the Grand Lodge of Montana and they became Bannack Lodge No.16. With the decline of the local population, in 1921 the lodge merged with Dillon Lodge.
According to the website of the current Bannack Lodge, the mission of the lodge is ‘to work with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for continued maintenance and stabilization of the building, along with the upkeep of the lodge, its furniture and paraphernalia; and for the preservation of the heritage, sights, and history of masonry relating to the Bannack area while enjoying and promoting the fraternity.’
The town itself was founded in 1862, but by the 1970s, the last residents had left, and now Bannack is a historical gold mine in itself, with sixty historic log, brick and frame structures, it has a re-enactment weekend in July and is a tourist hotspot, not forgetting the annual meeting of the Bannack Lodge.