The rough-cast stone building on the corner of King and Prideaux Streets, is the home of the oldest Masonic Lodge in Canada, established in 1792. It has served various purposes throughout its existence. Niagara Lodge Number 2 descended from several area lodges, and has roots that date back to the late 1700s. Members have been meeting at the current location since 1860, on the site where the original Masonic Lodge was located, and where the first government of Upper Canada held its first Legislative Assembly.
This venerable old building was constructed in 1816, and was known originally as the Stone Barracks. It served variously as military accommodations for local soldiers, a meeting and storage room for Niagara on the Lake's Town Band, a practice and storage room for the band of the Polish regiment stationed here during the First World War, and a schoolhouse for the community (Masters 1978). When fire destroyed its lodge rooms on Queen Street in 1860, the Lodge members began to meet in this building. In 1877, they purchased the building as their permanent Masonic Hall, located - appropriately enough - on the same site as the first Freemason's Lodge in the town (Niagara Masons, Undated).
When fire destroyed its lodge rooms on Queen Street in 1860, the Lodge met in the "Stone Barracks," built in 1816. The Lodge subsequently bought the building for its permanent Masonic Hall in 1877. Grand Lodge met here in 1942, and unveiled a plaque commemorating 150 years of active service by the Niagara brethren. The lodge celebrated its bicentennial in 1992 (Niagara Masons, undated).
It is not so much the building itself, but the legislation that was forged in meetings of Upper Canada's first Parliament in the original Niagara Freemason's Lodge, that make this site so significant.
The full sitting council of the Parliament of Upper Canada regularly met at the Freemason Lodge in Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) (Black 2009), among other locations (which included a tent, Navy Hall, and an outdoor meeting under the shade of an ancient oak tree, commemorated by Parliament Oak School on King Street). The Parliament of Upper Canada, under Lieutenant Governor Sir John Graves Simcoe, drafted and passed the first legislation in the British Commonwealth to abolish slavery.
The MAsonic meeting rooms on Queen Street were destroyed by fire on March 20, 1860, and virtually all the documents, jewels and regalia were lost. After this disaster, the places of meeting for the local Masons were numerous, until the Lodge bought the present building at the location of the first lodge in 1860.
"Prior to the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge, there were two lodges in the area. In 1782, St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2, was warranted. Its origin is unknown but some think its warrant came from Ireland. It was the meeting place for civilian Masons to correspond with the military lodge at Fort Niagara. In 1787, Col. John Butler headed a group to obtain a charter from Quebec for St. John's Lodge No.19. Both of these lodges worked in close harmony and may have actually joined forces.
The first lodge warranted by William Jarvis was St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2, which received a charter dated November 20, 1785. No. 1 was reserved for the Grand Master's Lodge but it was not warranted until 1796. R.W. Bro. Jarvis was its one and only Worshipful Master. It ceased operations in 1798 after Jarvis moved with the Capital of the Province to York. The original charters of both of these lodges are displayed on the walls of the lodge room at Niagara-on-the-Lake." (Niagara Freemasons, undated).
Antefixus21. Photos - NIagara Masonic Lodge No. 2. Flickr Photostream. https://www.flickr.com/photos/21728045@N08/with/4737881476/
Black, James. 2009. Black Masonic Lodge. http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=story_line&lg=English&fl=0&ex=00000659&sl=6579&pos=1
Masters, Joseph E. 1978. Niagara Reminiscences - Town of Niagara on the Lake: The Masters Papers - 1978 (digitized 2016 by Steven Baxter from the Maggie Parnall (1997) edition, Vol.1 & Vol. 2.. http://www.niagarahistorical.museum/media/DRAFT-TheMastersPapers.pdf
Niagara Masons. Undated. A short history of Niagara Lodge. http://www.niagaramasons.com/Lodges/Niagara/(Niagara%20History.htm