Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Montana
Helena Historic District (Boundary Increase)
Meriwether Lewis’s Masonic apron and an O. C. Seltzer mural depicting the first Masonic meeting in Montana are among the treasures displayed in “the home of Montana Masonry.” A dynamic political and social force since early territorial days, the Masons founded the Grand Lodge in Virginia City in 1866. Headquarters moved to Helena by 1868. After a catastrophic 1874 fire, Cornelius Hedges, then grand secretary, warned that the lodge needed a “more stable and commodious office than [my] coattails.” It took more than sixty years for Hedges’ vision to materialize, but in 1935 the lodge retained architect and Master Mason Chandler Cohagen of Billings to design a building to hold its increasingly significant collection of books, photographs, and artifacts. Carved Masonic symbols ornament the windows and doors of the resulting Art Moderne museum, whose horizontal massing, smooth finish, and restrained detailing reflect the streamlined aesthetic of the 1930s. In 1937, the Masons dedicated their new Grand Lodge, which today continues to house a public museum and the Masons’ state administrative offices.