Sunday, January 22, 2012

Closed Masonic Home for Children in Alexandria to become site of high-end apartments

Sidney Gremillion, a local developer working with Atlanta developer Roger Landry, explains plans to incorporate the long-closed Masonic Home for Children in Alexandria (background) into Mason Estates, a development that will include 169 apartments. The project will involve refurbishment of the main building and construction of new buildings. Leandro Huebner/
Sidney Gremillion, a local developer working with Atlanta developer Roger Landry, explains plans to incorporate the long-closed Masonic Home for Children in Alexandria (background) into Mason Estates, a development that will include 169 apartments. The project will involve refurbishment of the main building and construction of new buildings. Leandro Huebner/

The Masonic Home history

Louisiana Masons built the home in 1925, according to home's history contained in a booklet now kept at the new Masonic Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana building that houses archives.

The language reflects the official and proper nature of the Masons. The history book is titled "A Historical Review of the Masonic Home for Children of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana Free and Accepted Masons."

Building the home came after a few years of internal debates, but in the early 1920s Louisiana Masons had made a decision.

"The majority of our Grand Lodges advocate and believe in the Home, contending that the child will receive better care and training and will be afforded a much greater opportunity to achieve success in life and that a Masonic Home does not experience the objections which arise in connection with many State and other Institutions of a similar character," states the book.

The home's first orphans -- six of them -- came from the Legion family whose patriarch was a Mason -- "Bro. Robert B. Legion of Wm. Baker Lodge No. 388, located in Mangham, Louisiana," the book states. "He and his good wife both passed to the 'Great Beyond' on March 14th, 1924, of pneumonia. They were laid to rest on the same day, leaving six fatherless and motherless children ..."

The children, ages 3 to 15, became the first of many children who lived and learned at the instructions of the Masons.

"Their father and mother must look down with grateful appreciation to the Masons of Louisiana for their tender care of their dear children," the book states.

According to Barbara Clay with the Masonic Lodge, some 776 children lived at the home through the years.

In 1987, there were 38 children, but fewer than 10 when the doors were closed in May -- the end of the school year -- of 1994, according to press accounts.

Louisiana Masons did not rely on government money in any of the home's 69 years.

After sitting empty for almost 20 years, the former Masonic Home for Children in Alexandria is scheduled to undergo a $17 million conversion starting in March to 169 high-end apartments.
The gated community to be known as Mason Estates will be completed in 2013, the developer said.
Roger Landry, an Atlanta developer originally from Lake Charles, said Mason Estates would include 25 loft apartments with high ceilings, and that the monthly rental on the units will average $850 to $900. All the units will have electric fireplaces, washers and dryers, and there will be a swimming pool for residents, he said.
The land and buildings in which orphaned children once were housed and taught is at the corner of Masonic and Horseshoe drives, near the South Traffic Circle. Plans call for demolition of the boys and girls dormitory buildings. The building that housed the infirmary will become the leasing office.
"This development will breathe new life into the Masonic corridor that we hope will spur new development activity in the area," Landry said. "By providing a solid anchor at the south end of Masonic, we hope to create a new front door for the southern entrance into Alexandria."
On Feb. 28, Landry is scheduled to officially purchase some of the property and buildings at the site. Current owners Ray and Judi Proctor of Woodworth will retain the land that fronts Masonic Drive for possible commercial development.
Landry would not disclose the price of the land and buildings, including the three-story main building that will be refurbished and turned into the 25 loft apartments. He said six more buildings would be built for the remaining apartments.
Landry applied for and received tax credits for the development, and the loan is backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A Dallas lender is loaning the money for the property purchase and construction.
"The development team is working closely with the state's division of Historic Preservation to ensure that many of the historic elements remain intact throughout the rehabilitation process," Landry said in a news release.
Landry has a track record redeveloping historic buildings into residential units, including the Mollers Building in downtown Lake Charles.
Sidney Gremillion, a local developer working with Landry and the Proctors, said subcontractors interested in bidding on work can get plans, specifications and other information on Jan. 31 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Mason Estates site.

Traffic concerns

The project is almost three years in the making and attracted controversy in December 2010 when nearby residents told the Alexandria City Council they had concerns about traffic coming out of Mason Estates and entering Horseshoe Drive.
Council members eventually OK'd the project with a 4-3 vote, and pledged money to construct a left-turn lane at the traffic light at Horseshoe and Masonic.
Alexandria Planning Department Director James Branch said construction of the turn lane will start in March and be completed in early summer at an estimated cost of $430,000 in city and federal funds.
When it's completed, Mason Estates residents will have one way in and out of Mason Estates, through Horseshoe Drive. During construction, the entrance from Masonic Drive will remain open.
Branch noted there also are plans to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Jackson Street Extension, Lodi Road, Horseshoe Drive and Twin Bridges Road to the west of the development. He said the project is in the planning stages.
Both road projects are meant to help the flow of traffic on the heavily traveled section of Horseshoe Drive, which residents of the upscale Landmark and Tennyson Oaks subdivisions use.
"Anything that is required on behalf of the municipality as well as (District 4) has been taken care of," said City Council President Harry B. Silver, whose District 4 includes Mason Estates. "The ball is in the court of the developers to be sure they have the wherewithal to make (Mason Estates) happen."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shriner's International Responds to the G.L. of Arkansas

As previously reported in an earlier post, The Grand Lodge of Arkansas severed ties with Shriner's International after they did not follow suit, as was the case in Michigan, in expelling a sitting Potentate in one of their Shrines after he was expelled by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. Below is the response by the Imperial Potentate, Michael Severe, that was issued on January 13, 2012. As with everything, there is two sides to each story, and in this response we now know why the sitting Potentate was expelled by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas for what was deemed as "un-Masonic Conduct". It's a shame that these leaders can't sit at the table of Brotherhood and work out these differences that seem to be, on the surface at least, much ado over nothing.

Letter from Shriners International in response to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas

To the Grand Lodges of the Conference of Grand Masters for North America and to the subordinate temples of Shriners International:
By now, you will have received a letter dated December 8, 2011 from the Grand Master of Arkansas regarding action he has taken against Floyd R. Buffington, Potentate of Scimitar Shriners, as well as Shriners International.  I ask your indulgence while I present you with the facts as I understand them.
The prerequisite for membership in Shriners International is that the petitioner must be in good standing as a Master Mason of a lodge recognized by or in amity with the Conference of Grand Masters of North America.
Bro. and Potentate Floyd R. Buffington is a Master Mason in good standing in the Grand Lodge of Iowa and was a Master Mason in good standing in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas until his membership therein was revoked by that Grand Lodge.
It appears that the incident in dispute occurred at a non-Masonic and non-Shrine event.  Floyd R. Buffington had invited some friends to join him for a Christmas party at a local country club.  A number of other groups were at the country club at the same time.  There was another party in the next room for teens and the music was intolerably loud. After being asked to reduce the volume at the teen party, the mother of one of the teens became irate and a confrontation ensued between her and some of those at the Buffington party.  This is the same lady who made her claims against Potentate Buffington.  Who said what, and who commenced the incident, between Potentate Buffington and the lady, is subject to which witness receives your credibility.  Suffice it to say, that the allegations of each party are disputed by the other party.
Brother and Noble Floyd R. Buffington was elected potentate of Scimitar Shriners for 2010.  Under §325.2(b) of the bylaws of Shriners International, a Noble may not serve as potentate of any temple for more than 2 years.  Potentate Buffington decided that he would like to serve a second term.  This did not meet with unanimous approval.  Among those disapproving was 2005 potentate of Scimitar Shriners, Carroll Elder.  Efforts by some Nobles to persuade him not to seek a second term were not heeded.  He ran, and the Nobles of the temple did elect Floyd R. Buffington to a second term – as their 2011 potentate.  He has now completed this second term.
Soon after his election as the 2011 potentate of Scimitar Shriners, 2005 potentate of Scimitar Shriners Carroll Elder sent a letter to the Grand Master and filed a complaint in Springdale Lodge 316 (the home lodge of Bro, Buffington and Bro. Elder) alleging unmasonic conduct during the above mentioned non-Shrine non-Masonic activity.  It is worth mentioning that Noble and Bro. Elder was not even in attendance at the activity.
An investigating committee at Bro. Buffington’s Arkansas Masonic lodge, consisting of Bro. Larry Holt, P.M., Bro. Gary Gambill, P.M., and Bro. Shane Howeth, P.M., looked into the complaint and brought no Masonic charges, but did note the internal conflict at Scimitar Shriners caused by the potentate seeking a second term. Further, no Masonic complaint was instituted in the Masonic lodge in Iowa of which Potentate Buffington is a member; nor any Shrine complaint instituted in Scimitar Shriners, the Shrine temple in which Potentate Buffington is a member.
A copy of the lodge investigating committee’s report is attached hereto and made a part hereof by reference (Attachment A).
Thereafter, the Grand Master appointed a Grand Lodge investigation committee, consisting of individuals of his choosing, to “look into” the allegations.  After receiving the report of this committee (which report has not been seen by Potentate Buffington), the Grand Master charged Potentate Buffington with unmasonic conduct and so informed him.  The Grand Master then suspended Potentate Buffington “from all rights of a Master Mason” in Arkansas pending the outcome of a Grand Lodge Trial Commission, that would take place at a later time.  That is, the Grand Master suspended Potentate Buffington prior to any trial.  Then, after the trial of the Grand Lodge Trial Commission, a report of the trial committee was sent to the Grand Master (but none was sent to Potentate Buffington).  The Grand Master then sent a letter dated August 31, 2011 to Potentate Buffington informing him of his immediate expulsion from Freemasonry in Arkansas.
The investigating committee of Potentate Buffington’s lodge, of which Bro. Larry Holt, P.M. was a member as mentioned before, then filed an Appeal to the Board of Appeals and Grievances of the Grand Lodge regarding the expulsion of Potentate Buffington from Masonry by the Grand Master.  A copy of that appeal is attached hereto and made a part hereof by reference (Attachment B).
I have been informed that Bro. Larry Holt, P.M. was expelled from Freemasonry by the Grand Master without a trial for filing the Appeal to the Board of Appeals and Grievances of the Grand Lodge.
Potentate Buffington, pursuant to Shrine fraternal law, asked that his Shrine membership not be terminated until he had an opportunity to be heard.  A hearing will be held before the Grievances and Appeals Committee of Shriners International regarding his Shrine membership no later than the 2012 annual session of Shriners International in July.  The final decision of his Shrine membership will then rest with the Representatives at the annual session.
I, as Imperial Potentate, held a telephone conference with the Grand Master of Masons of Arkansas on December 14, 2011.  In attendance with me were the General Counsel and General Counsel Emeritus of Shriners International.  In attendance with the Grand Master were the Deputy Grand Master, Grand Secretary (PGM), Grand Secretary Emeritus (PGM), Grand Treasurer and Grand Treasurer Emeritus (PGM).
During this telephone conference the Grand Master wanted to know what Shriners International intended to do.  In response, the representatives of Shriners International outlined the different governing laws between the Grand Lodge and Shriners International; and that the Imperial Potentate had taken an oath to govern his organization in accordance with its laws and that the Grand Master took an oath to govern his organization in accordance with its laws.  It was explained that disciplinary procedures in the Shrine are governed by §330.2 of its international bylaws which provide the guidelines for the determination of whether an accused Noble should be disciplined, the extent of such discipline if appropriate and to assure fair play and substantial justice as these concepts are understood and practiced in North America.  As a result, it often takes a little longer to resolve disciplinary issues.
After further discussions, a Grand Lodge representative stated that Shriners International must follow the Grand Lodge laws in its Shrine governance within the state of Arkansas and referred to a letter written to the Grand Lodge on January 3, 2001 by the newly elected potentates of the two shrine temples in Arkansas, although they had not yet been installed.  The original letter is in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. A copy of the letter is attached hereto and made a part hereof by reference (Attachment C). The provisions thereof were as follows:
Requested “formal recognition of the Shrine as an organization having Masonic membership as a prerequisite to its own,” and that they request “to be in amity with the Grand Jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Arkansas.”
The two potentates-elect go on to say that the letter is written “on behalf of the Master Masons of Arkansas who hold membership in the Shrine and is signed as such by the potentates of Scimitar and Sahara Temples” and “that in making this request, and on behalf of our membership, the officers of the Shrine acknowledge the Grand Lodge of Arkansas as the fundamental unit and foundation of the whole of Freemasonry within this Grand Jurisdiction.”  The letter further stated that the two potentates “affirm that the officers of the Shrine will hold the obligations of a Master Mason to be inviolate at all times and under all circumstances.” And they affirm that “the officers of the Shrine will allow no person to visit a tiled meeting, or be admitted into or retain membership in either of the Shrine temples of Arkansas, who is not a Master Mason in good standing of a subordinate lodge of this or another Grand Jurisdiction recognized by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Arkansas.”
The contents of the letter by the two potentates-elect were “approved by Imperial Potentate Robert N. Turnipseed.”
I further call to your attention that the foregoing letter never asked – nor could it – that the two Shrine temples in Arkansas would be “appendant” bodies of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and would be governed by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.  This would be in violation of the articles of incorporation and bylaws of Shriners International.
Then, later on during the year, the Grand Lodge, by its unilateral action, perhaps at a Grand Lodge annual communication, recognized the Shrine as an “appendant body,” of the Grand Lodge.  It is apparent that the Grand Lodge chose the word “appendant” very carefully and, thereafter, gave it a construction that connotes that the appendant body (Shriners International) is a subservient body to the supreme body (Grand Lodge of Arkansas).
Realizing the foregoing connotation, Scimitar Shriners, requested the Grand Lodge to withdraw its action of “appendant” recognition.  The Grand Lodge has not done so.
During the telephone conference with the Grand Lodge on December 14, 2011, when the representatives of the Grand Lodge specified that Shriners International was an “appendant body” of the Grand Lodge and must abide by the decisions of the Grand Lodge, whether or not they are in conflict with the governing laws of Shriners International, the conference call was summarily concluded by the Grand Lodge with the statement that you “will hear from us very shortly.”
During the telephone conference, Shriners International requested the Grand Lodge to withdraw its action of “appendant” recognition.  The Grand Lodge said it would not.
So, upon receipt of the December 8, 2011 letter from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, which was received on or about December 22, 2011, it was apparent that the Grand Lodge had made its irrevocable decision six days before the conference call (which was held on December 14, 2011), and all reasonable efforts by Shriners International to resolve this controversy in an amicable and brotherly manner were futile.
Prior to 1989, there had been occasional instances of fraternal controversy between Shriners International and a Grand Lodge.  I am pleased to inform you that all of them had been resolved in the highest traditions of our two great fraternal organizations – Freemasonry and Shriners International.
On July 7, 1989 (some 23 years ago), at the annual session of Shriners International, a resolution entitled Sovereignty, Rights And Responsibilities was unanimously adopted by the representatives.  I attach a copy thereof and make it a part hereof by reference (Attachment D).  The resolution provided mutual clarity and respect for our two fraternal organizations.  Any differences after that date between a Grand Lodge and Shriners International were resolved in accordance with the principles of that document.  So, it is with sorrow that I have found it necessary to report to you in this communication about the unresolved differences between the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and Shriners International.
The December 8, 2011 letter and edict from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is self-evident.  You have read it.  To emphasize the severity of the edict, the Grand Lodge has informed Shriners in Arkansas that transporting children to and from our Shrine hospitals is a violation of the edict and that the Grand Master and will expel violators of his edict.
Before I end this Response letter to you, I would be remiss if I did not commend Bro. Floyd R. Buffington for his unselfish voluntary act.  He, knowing that I cannot, and will not, violate my oath of office as Imperial Potentate and transfer governance of Shriners International in the state of Arkansas to the Grand Master thereof, took a demit from the Shrine.  He is, therefore, no longer a member of Scimitar Shriners.  Bro. Buffington demitted with the hope that the Grand Master would then revoke his edict so that the other Shrine Masons in Arkansas would not suffer the consequences threatened by the Grand Master.  This solicitous and voluntary act by Potentate Buffington was brought to the attention of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas – to no avail.  The Grand Master has declined to revoke his edict against Shriners International in his state.
I, as Imperial potentate, must now, with utmost reluctance, respond to the actions recited in the Grand Master’s letter.  I must take appropriate action to protect and defend Shriners International and abide by my oath of office to “faithfully and to the best of my ability, discharge the duties of the office to which I have been elected.”
I will now, without further delay, issue a Special Order pursuant to the governing bylaws of our fraternal organization, to protect Shriners International from suppression by the Grand Master of Arkansas.
Dated this 13th day of January, 2012.
Michael G. Severe – Imperial Potentate

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Eyebrow" Raising Arizona

Arizona's Deputy Grand Master removed by Grand Master of Arizona

This below comes from my Friend, Brother and fellow Blogger, Brother Christopher Hodapp, who is the administrator of the "Freemasons for Dummies" website.

Monday, January 02, 2012 

Trouble in Arizona

I have received several messages regarding the removal of the Deputy Grand Master Michael Meier by the Grand Master of Arizona, D. Brook Cunningham, on December 26th. I have seen a copy of the letter from the Grand Master, but know no details. The GL of Arizona has had a difficult year. The Senior Grand Warden and the only other elected officer besides the Grand Master himself have recently resigned, as well.

(Click on the image below to enlarge)