Thursday, March 03, 2011
Fraternal Port Richmond
NE corner of Bennett and Port Richmond Avenues, 1905 - Masonic Hall - same place, 2011
Once upon a time Americans bonded with each other at all sorts of fraternal organizations. At the organization's height in 1959 there were just over 4 million Masons in American. Notably there were huge numbers of Elks, Moose, Eagles and Odd Fellows as well.
Today the Masons have dropped below the 2 million mark. At the same time the country's population climbed from 179 million to 308 million. I don't know how high the others groups were in the past but I feel safe in assuming their numbers have shrunk as well.
Loyal Order of Moose Club House on the corner of Bennett and Park, 1927 - same corner, 2011
More knowledgeable people than your humble blogger have examined the question of declining American civic and community participation (see Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone") but I have to wonder why Americans have really turned inward to such an astonishing degree. What turned us from a society of inveterate joiners and boosters into isolated little family units? Is it all the tv and internet that's cut us off from our fellows? I'm not even saying it's a bad thing (if you don't know, I was the kid in corner with his nose in a book), it's just such a drastic change in such a little bit of time.
Once upon a time Port Richmond was home to many of these organizations, hosting large facilities they built with the dues of their members. On Bennett Street you had the Masons and the Moose. A few blocks west on Harrison Street was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. One lot west of Faber Street on Richmond Terrace was the Knights of Columbus' house.
2180 Richmond Terrace, 1932 - Knights of Columbus Assumption Council 1694
According to information from rootsweb, in 1888, the Order of United American Mechanics (a nativist group) had two chapters meeting in a public hall in the neighborhood and the Grand Army of the Republic had its own hall.
Later the Masons built a more magnificent hall on Anderson Avenue.
Eventually, though, they closed up shop and sold the facility to the CYO. From numerous North Shore lodges they've been reduced to one in Stapleton (Tompkins No. 471 to be precise).
The Moose sold their property and bought an old Lutheran church on Nicholas Avenue and the Odd Fellows' nearest location appears to be near West Point. The other groups I listed don't even exist anymore.
once the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, now an apartment - Harrison Street