Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mimico Masonic Temple (Connaught Hall)

Mimico Masonic Temple (Connaught Hall)
23 Superior Avenue
© Michael Harrison 2012 

This year (2012) is the 100th anniversary of Connaught Masonic Lodge No. 501.  Their home, the Mimico Masonic Temple at 23 Superior Avenue was evaluated as part of the Mimico 2020 Revitalization Cultural Heritage Resource Assessment Report released October 2012. 

According to the report, the Mimico Masonic Temple (Connaught Hall) is an "imposing two-storey brick structure with a symmetrical three-bay façade, divided by pilasters rising to a simple projecting entablature corbelled out from the wall surface; brick on a concrete foundation with concrete or stone sills and lintels, pressed metal cornice; entrance is very simple, marked with Masonic symbols".

The report indicates that the property “merits further study and evaluation as a potential BHR” (Built Heritage Resource).  Further, the property has a “high” integrity of design. (pg 88)

If any building in Mimico is worthy of protection under the Ontario Heritage Act the Mimico Masonic Temple is one of them.

The Temple has a long history in the Town of Mimico. 

According to “A Century of Freemasonry in Etobicoke”, the first Lodge in the area was the York Lodge established in 1863. By 1878 the Mimico Lodge was constituted in Islington (not Mimico), and later moved to a permanent home in Lambton Mills in 1882.   In 1911 a:

“large number of members of this Lodge residing in the Town of Mimico decided to form a new Lodge there; the difficultly of travelling from this town to Lambton Mills was the main and sufficient reason.  The only means of transportation being by driving, or if not the happy possessor of a horse and carriage or a motor (and these latter were not nearly so plentiful as at present) was to take the electric car and by a circuitous route through Sunnyside and West Toronto, finally arriving at the destination by a ten minute walk; the whole time consumed in going to and returning from Lodge being much greater than the time spent there.  Accordingly, a few of the Brethren started a chapter list which soon had forty-two names upon it.  Among these were the following of “Mimico” Lodge:  George S Brown, the first Master of the new Lodge; F. F. Reeves, Octavius L. Hicks, P.H. Brown, J. Barnum, G.P. Richardson, J.W. Ruttan, John Kay, Charles Aymer, Dr. Forbes Godfrey, M.L.A., and R. Elkin. 

The consent of “Mimico” Lodge was asked and cheerfully given at the meeting in October 1911.  Dispensation and Charter followed in due course.  “Mimico” Lodge presented a copy of the V.S.L. [Volume of Sacred Law], with their best wishes for a successful career, to the new Lodge, which adopted the name, “Connaught” after H.R.H. Duke of Connaught, Grand Master of the “United Grand Lodge of England”, and Governor-General of Canada.”

Connaught Lodge was formally instituted and constituted in 1912.   The Mimico Masonic Temple was built as a combination Masonic Hall/Theatre with the theatre on the lower level and the Masonic Hall above.  It housed the first theatre in the Lakeshore area.  The 1919 reference in the Toronto City directory (Mimico section) has the building listed as “Connaught Theatre”.  In the 1921 directory (Mimico section) it is listed as both “Connaught Lodge” and “Connaught Theatre”.   This double listing is also in the 1922 directory (Mimico section).

The Connaught Lodge first met in rented quarters in the Heather Block on the Lake Shore Road at the foot of Mimico Avenue.  In the photo of the soldiers you can see a small light globe with a Masonic symbol on it on the building behind them.  The building was demolished a few years ago and the land is now Mimico Square at Amos Waites Park.

It was not until 1917 that the members constructed a purpose built Masonic Temple on Superior Avenue.  It was built primarily as the home of Connaught Lodge (No. 501) but eventually it served as the Masonic Temple for three additional Lodges (four in total). The three additional lodges were:  Long Branch Lodge (No. 632); Anthony Sayer Lodge (No. 640) and Lake Shore Lodge (No. 645); all established in 1927.

Connaught Lodge (No. 501) was the primary lodge in the Mimico Masonic Temple.  The membership was a who’s who list of Mimico’s political and business elite.  It includes names such as:

  • Dr. Forbes Godfrey (local MPP and first Ontario Minister of Health);
  • JH Doughty (Mayor of Mimico 1921-1925);
  • AD Norris (Mayor of Mimico 1933-1935, 1941-1942, 1946, 1949-1954; Reeve of Mimico 1943-1944-1945);
  • George R. Gauld (Superintendent of the Victoria Industrial School, long time School Board Trustee – George R Gauld School is named after him);
  • George W.G. Gauld (WWI Flying Ace, Town of Mimico solicitor for 40 years);
  • John Kay, (descendant of Mimico’s first commuter – see Mimico Story,  pg 50);
  • Robert Skelton (First Reeve of Mimico 1911-1912, Manager of Ontario Sewer Pipe Company);
  • Octavius Hicks (prominent contractor who built the first bowstring concrete truss bridge span in Ontario over Etobicoke Creek;
  • Andrew Dods (First Clerk of Mimico, Mimico Councillor, Member of the Mimico Public Utilities Commission, President of Ontario Sewer Pipe Company, Mimico’s largest industry);
  • Louis J West (Mayor of Mimico 1919-1920, Founding member and President of Toronto Stock Exchange)
  • Dr John Serson (Member [various years] as well as Chair Mimico High School Board 1933, Prominent Surgeon);
  • Jay Barnun (First Assessor for Town of Mimico); and,
  • Dr. K.F.Pownall (Dentist, Registrar Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario 1965-1990, Clinical Demonstrator University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry).
A well known member of the Anthony Sayer Lodge (No. 640) was:

  • L.J. Ferrie (Clerk and Treasurer, Town of Mimico, Councillor, Town of Mimico)
Some names of the Lake Shore Lodge (No. 645) included:

  • Eric Horwood, Architect, Horwood and White, son of J.C.B. Horwood, Architect.  Eric Horwood would undertake the renovation of the Mimico Masonic Temple (Connaught Hall) following the damage caused by fire in 1940;
  • E.J. Everett (long time Chairman of the Mimico Library Board – 25 years);
  • W.H. McBride (Principal George R. Gauld School 1942-1943, John English School 1942-1960);
  • E. Jarrett (WWI Veteran – including Vimy Ridge, co founder of Glendinning-Jarrett Accounting – now part of Price Waterhouse; Auditor for the Town of Mimico for over 40 years, Committee Member who worked on the Town of Mimico application to Ontario Municipal Board for the establishment of a Metropolitan Form of Government for Toronto – 1947- which led to the formation of Metropolitan Toronto in 1953);
  • G.H. Hogle (owner of G.H. Hogle Undertakers); and,
  • Everett Herbert Glenn, Principal of Mimico High School (25 years), Member, Mimico Public Library Board.
This is by no means an extensive listing of members of the various lodges that utilized the Mimico Masonic Temple (Connaught Hall)

In addition to serving as a Masonic Temple, the building also served as a community hub with many local events taking place in it such as banquets, wedding receptions, political rallies (including some broadcast live on radio), charity events, a polling location for elections at all levels of government, theatre, business meetings, concerts, plays, dances, memorial services on November 11th, meetings of the Order of the Eastern Star, charity events of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, Scout/Guide meetings, blood donor clinics and many public meetings.  It also served as the location of the local police court.

Two sets of alterations are known to have been made to the building.  
In 1936 alterations were made to “provide Mimico with a more dignified courtroom” (Toronto Star Feb 5, 1936).   More extensive alterations were made in 1940 due to a fire which resulted in extensive damage ($6,000 worth according to the Toronto Star Dec 2, 1940).  The prominent architectural firm of Horwood and White was engaged to renovate the building.  Eric Horwood, who lived in Mimico at “Quidi Vidi” the family’s waterfront estate, and was a member of the Lake Shore Lodge, undertook the work.  The new building was opened officially on September 3, 1940.  It included a separate wing for the local police court.

Details of the damage from the 1940 fire, and the renovation can be found in the Horwood Collection at the Archives of Ontario.

The Mimico Masonic Temple, which sits proudly on Superior Avenue, continues to serve as the headquarters for the Connaught Lodge and the three other historic Masonic Lodges in Mimico today.

Designation of this building under the Ontario Heritage Act will ensure that this historically significant, dignified building continues to grace the community. 

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