Since April 6, 1874 when a group of brothers formed a committee to establish a Masonic Lodge in Needham, the Norfolk Lodge has been actively involved in many aspects of community life in Needham and the surrounding communities. In addition to being actively engaged in supporting Masonic charitable programs chosen by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge, Norfolk Lodge is very engaged in supporting local civic and government organizations in the local community. These include sponsorship of a Little League team, assisting the Needham Rotary Club with their Thanksgiving dinner program which provides a meal to those less fortunate residents and families in town. In addition, the Norfolk lodge financially supports the Needham YMCA, the Needham Community Council, the Carter Church Children’s Center, the Walker School, the River School, the Needham Parks & Recreation Department and the Needham Exchange Club.
We also sponsor pancake breakfasts, free to community members, on our open house days with donation jars whose proceeds go to a local organization. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the lodge sells Christmas trees to residents and surrounding communities and donates 30 trees to the Needham Community Council for distribution to local residents who might otherwise not have a tree.
On April 6, 1874, a group of Masons formed a committee to establish a Masonic Lodge in Needham. Officers were elected on April 28, 1874. On May 18, 1874 the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts granted a dispensation to hold meetings in Needham. The first regular meeting, under the dispensation, was held on May 20, 1874. Meetings were held in Odd Fellows Hall, at the corner of Great Plain Avenue and Chapel St. On July 1, 1875, Norfolk Lodge A.F. & A.M. was duly constituted. There were 28 brethren present when the charter was presented by the Grand Lodge officers.
The early years saw Norfolk Lodge meeting at the several places in Needham. Fires greatly influenced Norfolk Lodge’s early history and meeting places. Many of our original records, documents and furniture were destroyed by three fires, which occurred in 1879, 1887 and 1893.
In 1911, the Needham Masonic Hall Association purchased the land and building at 992 Great Plain Avenue. (present site of the Masala Arts restaurant.) The building was renovated and Norfolk Lodge moved into its new home on the second floor in 1915. Always active in the community, members of our Lodge laid the cornerstone of the Needham Town Hall in 1903.
Norfolk Lodge continued to grow and during our 50th anniversary year, 1924, the meeting facilities were enlarged to occupy the entire second floor of 992 Great Plain Avenue. We commenced the celebration of our 50th Anniversary on May 18, 1924, with a parade that was followed by a church service in Needham Town Hall. On May 19th, a reception was held in the Lodge Hall with Most Worshipful Dudley H. Ferrell, presiding. A Banquet followed in the Town Hall. The anniversary celebration also included a Ladies’ Night at the Town Hall. During 1924, we laid the corner stone of the Congregational Church. At the time of our 50th anniversary, Norfolk Lodge had 474 members.
Membership continued to grow in the 1920s and reached 502 shortly preceding Black Tuesday, the 15 year period from 1929 to 1944 was an active one for Norfolk Lodge.
In 1934, Wor. Walter Queen, Past Master of Norfolk Lodge, who was serving as Chief Engineer of Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic expedition; presided at the opening of a Lodge meeting aboard ship at Little America in Antarctica. In 1936, the Needham Masonic Corporation was created to replace the Needham Masonic Association. The Lodge quarters were renovated in 1937 complete with a new kitchen and banquet hall. Despite the difficult financial times, the mortgage on the Masonic Apartments was burned on Oct. 12, 1942. In 1944, our Lodge proudly dedicated a Roll of Honor listing twenty-two of our Brethren who served in the Armed Forces during World War II.
With the return of peace, membership in Norfolk Lodge again grew, reaching 500 Brethren in 1949, and peaking at 657 members in 1964. In 1964 the Needham Masonic Corporation purchased the present property as a location for a new Lodge Hall. After planning and raising funds, groundbreaking took place in November of 1971. Our new Lodge building was dedicated on September 6, 1972. Most of the regalia and Lodge room furnishings were moved from the old building to the new building.
In 1974 we observed our 100th anniversary with several gala celebrations including a worship service at the Carter Memorial Methodist Church, an anniversary communication, and a Ladies’ Night Dinner Dance. During our May 13, 1974 meeting, M.W. Donald W. Vose, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts was received. Our anniversary celebration also included burning the mortgage on the new building.
Norfolk Lodge has maintained an active presence in Massachusetts Masonry, and in the Needham community. The Lodge has stayed true to the tenets of our institution but with a continued change in our outward appearance to the community. We have been deeply involved with the Town of Needham in many events and are frequently called upon to participate or lend personnel and space.
As we enter the new millennium Norfolk Lodge has much to be proud of. True to our history we are still an active and vibrant part of the Needham community, each year we host a cookout at Claxton Fields, a July 4th Pancake breakfast, and a Christmas Tree Sale. True to the tenets of Masonry we also actively support several local charities which assist the people of Needham including the Charles River YMCA, the Needham Community Council, the Charles Walker School amongst others.
On July 4, 2001 we sponsored a large Child Identification event and entered a prize winning float in the Needham July 4th Parade. July 2002 saw another prize winning Norfolk Lodge float in the parade. In November 2011 Norfolk Lodge, along with a suite of Grand Lodge officers let by M.W. Richard James Stewart dedicated the new Needham Town Hall. After the ceremony they invited people back to the Lodge Hall in order to view the George Washington Bible which was used during the ceremony. In 2012 Norfolk Lodge hosted its first annual Family Picnic for the members of the community and the Brethren of the Lodge.
Over the years, members of Norfolk Lodge have been, and continue to be active in many other Masonic bodies. Our ranks include two Grand Masters of Masons in Massachusetts: M.W. Samuel H. Wragg, 1945 – 1947; and M.W. Laurence E. Eaton, 1960 – 1962. In addition, 4 of our Brethren have served as Deputy Grand Master, and eleven have served as District Deputy Grand Master. Many others have served Grand Lodge in other capacities, or have served as high-ranking officers in Scottish and York Rite.
Norfolk Lodge has enjoyed a magnificent history and looks forward to the future with optimism and the commitment to continue the high Masonic values which have brought us through our first 140 years.