About Us - San Diego Valley - 1887
Freemasonry was born in San Diego at a community picnic in George Washington Square in what is now known as Old Town. It was spring, 1851, and among the picnickers assembled was a small group of men who discovered each other to be Masons. They met and petitioned the year-old Grand Lodge of California to form a lodge in San Diego. As a result San Diego Lodge No. 35 was chartered on May 6, 1853 with 14 members. The first meetings of the new Lodge were held in a small frame building in Old Town. In 1881 the Masons, in a joint venture with the International Order of Odd-fellows, built a Temple on the corner of Sixth and H (now Market) Streets. By 1887 the fraternity had grown to nearly 200 members. A few of them began to work diligently to bring a Valley of Scottish Rite Masonry to San Diego. On Friday the 13th, Constans Lodge of Perfection No.8 was instituted. There followed in rapid 6 succession the institution of Constans Chapter of Rose Croix, the San Diego Commandery and the San Diego Consistory. By 1910 there were more than 550 members. The Rite outgrew the Hall they had shared with the I.O.O.F. for 31 years. On May 7, 1910 the corner stone of a new Temple was laid at the Northeast corner of Ash and Fifth Streets and two years later they moved in. After 31 years a building at Third and Cedar Streets was acquired and remodeled. It was dedicated in April, 1942. Following the move to 350 Cedar Street the Masonic organizations experienced an explosive period of growth. One hundred years following the charter of San Diego Lodge #35, there were twenty Craft Lodges located throughout San Diego County. By 1950 membership increased to nearly 3100 Masters of the Royal Secret and a search for a new Temple began. (1) The Building Committee found an ideal location; a fourteen acre plot in the center of Mission Valley. A huge bowling alley was a part of the property. The Committee was astute enough to recognize the great potential both of the location and of the building. Those bold and far-sighted men met the challenge and turned this ugly building into a beautiful and useful Scottish Rite Masonic Center that is home to seven Craft Lodges, a York Rite Body and several youth groups and other affiliated bodies. In April, 1965 a Fourteenth Degree was conferred for the first time in the new Temple. Even though the building was now, in 1970 the kitchen was refurbished and re-equipped to serve 1000 or more diners at stated meetings and other events. The new larger library with increased shelving and more comfortable workspace was opened in July, 1974. The Valley of San Diego has always supported and sometimes subsidized Masonic and Civic activities at the Center. The first Constitution Day and Naturalization Ceremony was held in September 1970 and is now a regular feature on the Scottish Rite Calendar. In June 1977, the San Diego County Masonic Officers' Association held its Fiftieth Annual Flag Day Breakfast. It continues now under the auspices of the San Diego/Imperial Past Masters' Association. The breakfast proceeds are donated to the three Masonic Youth groups. The Scottish Rite Woman's' Association celebrated its Seventieth Anniversary in 1997. The SWRA is known for its many charitable activities. It is a strong supporter of the Rite and neither organization can do without that secure bond of mutual assistance. In 1979 the "San Diego Scottish Rite Program for Aphasia" was formed to support the Speech, Hearing and Neurosensory Clinic at Children’s' Hospital. The Rite decided to establish the "Childhood Language Disorders Center" in the Temple and in July 1982 the Clinic opened in its new quarters. At that time the staff consisted of the director and one full-time speech therapist. The first two children were graduated from the Clinic in March, 1983. It has since grown to the present three full-time certified, licensed speech/language pathologists who provide highly professional services to children. The Clinic has become a unique service to the community of San Diego with its intense, individualized therapy. Now, at the turn of the Millennium, it carries a caseload of 40 to 50 children at a given time. In 1997 it treated 87 children and graduated 54. There is a primary waiting list of nearly 90 children. June, 1982 saw the initiation of the "365 Club". Its aim is to encourage annual member contributions of at least $125.00 to the Clinic. Soon afterward, the "Century Club" and the "Million Dollar Club" were created for those who wished to make larger contributions. Other sources of income for the Clinic are the Scottish Rite Jewelry store, the annual rummage sale and the monthly $5.00 “All You Can Eat” dinners, each of which generate several thousand dollars a year. A step forward in cementing the Rite to the families of its members occurred when the Maunday Thursday Dinner and "Extinguishing of the Lights" and the Easter Breakfast and the "Relighting of the Lights" Ceremonies were opened to the public. It has always been a goal of the San Diego Rite to help the Craft Lodges in their quest for new members. At the Del Mar Fair in June 1984 the first Freemason Information Booth was set up between the food slicer/dicer/apple corers and the miracle rug cleaners. This annual program is a significant source of prospects for Freemasonry. In recent years the annual Scottish Rite picnic was expanded to a "Masonic Family Picnic", a highly successful event with several hundred attending for a day of fun, food and games, all as guests of the Valley of San Diego. A successful program to assist Craft Lodges in finding new members is the annual countywide Masonic Information Night. As many as 140 male non-Masons attended, often with their wives. The Valley of San Diego has expanded its efforts to unite all Masonry by including the York Rite and Shrine as well as the Craft Lodges in its activities. Since 1992 each city Police Department in the County of San Diego, the Sheriff's Department and the Highway Patrol have chosen an officer as candidate for "Officer of the Year", one of two excellent public showcases for Freemasonry in San Diego County. The second program, "Teacher of the Year", since 1995, recognizes a superior teacher from among candidates selected by their respective school districts. (2) Bibliography Sources My thanks to all those, names and nameless, who helped me amass the materials used in compiling this history of the Orient of California. Ill:. Robert D. Haas 33° 1. California First Century of Scottish Rite Masonry p. 107 ff. San Diego Bodies 2. Robert D. Haas 33°, Historian, San Diego Bodies.
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