Lake Macquarie History

Masonic Hall, Speers Point

The building at 81 Lakeview Street Speers Point has seen a number of changes in use since its original construction as a Masonic Temple in the 1920s. Lake Macquarie Council purchased the site in the mid to late 1970s, around the time the present Administration Building was constructed. It was soon after that the building was converted into the Lakeview Street Theatre and became home to respected creative and performing arts groups, Theatre Kids (now Tandem Theatre for Youth) and Freewheels Theatre Company. Currently the hall on the western side of the building houses the Lake Macquarie Family Day Care Centre. (Campbell 2015, p.14)

photo: masonic hall, speers point

Origins

Freemasonry arose during the Middle Ages from the guilds of stonemasons, which constructed Europe’s castles and cathedrals. These highly skilled craftsmen passed on their skills in mathematics and architecture to apprentices, who they deemed worthy of the trade.

In 1717, in England the first Grand Lodge was formed and soon spread across the world. The beginnings of Freemasonry in Australia has been traced to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. The United Grand Lodge of New South Wales was officially formed in 1888.

Freemasonry in Lake Macquarie

There is no known general history of the beginnings of Freemasonry in the Hunter Valley, however there is suggestion that chartered lodges existed at Maitland from 1840 and subsequently in Newcastle and throughout other Hunter Valley towns. Freemasonry found its way to Lake Macquarie in the twentieth century, with Lodge Lake Macquarie, No. 243 forming in 1905 (Campbell 2015, p.7)

Construction of Speers Point Masonic Hall

"It was not until July 1924 that a contract for the building of a Masonic Hall in the Speers Point / Boolaroo area, was let to builder D. Campbell. The site was on a central portion of Fourth Street, which is now known as Lakeview Street. The Shire Engineer, A.H. Lowry, also a freemason, designed the building, without charge. The foundation stone was laid on September 6, 1924 by Right Worshipful Brother Dugald Dobie. Mr Dobie spent a large proportion of his life expanding Masonry throughout the Hunter Valley and was a well known identity in the Newcastle region. Brethren of the lodge donated the furnishings, work tools and organ to outfit the building. Prominent businessman Thomas Charles Frith, a foundation member of Lodge Lake Macquarie, became the foundation Worshipful Master of Lodge Speers Point No. 538 in 1925. Original membership for the lodge is reported to be 78".(Campbell 2015, p.9)

There were strong connections between Freemasonry and the Lake Macquarie Shire Council. This is evident in the laying of the stone of the Council Chambers, where the procession was conducted in full Masonry regalia.

The Building

Quoted in the 2015 Heritage Impact Study as a "comparatively late example of a simplified Federation Anglo-Dutch style" the study best describes its features:

"Its execution in red brick, tuck-pointed on the facade, with a corrugated asbestos roof with prominent roof ventilators and flagpole,afforded a restrained, though not utilitarian, presence. Its facade incorporates symbology of Freemasonry as ‘a peculiar [distinctive] system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols’, as well in the use of triads, emblematic of the three Masonic pillars of Wisdom,Strength and Beauty. Further symbology is exhibited in elements such as the corbels; string courses; entry and window apertures; bays; and pebble-cast. The number of dentils below the parapet is also significant on several levels, not least because it might be taken as referring to the fifteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a letter rich in meaning in both Divine and secular terms. The northern, western and southern elevations were, by contrast, undistinguished and purely functional, with plain pilasters dividing the face brick into a number of bays" (Campbell 2015, p.9)

"The Masonic Hall featured two main spaces, one housing the Lodge Room itself, and the other the after-meeting festive board (supper) space known as the South. Access to the Lodge Room was through the South, itself reached by a central entry on the eastern elevation. Masonic meetings were, until comparatively recent times, generally held in the evening. The Lodge Room featured top-hung casement windows high enough to provide ventilation while preserving confidentiality and noise attenuation for meetings, which then as now featured instrumental music, singing, prayers and spoken ritual. The eastern fenestration of the South, a space not requiring privacy, was provided by two double-hung sash windows flanking the entry. Unusually, the facade does not appear to have identified the building as a Masonic Hall, nor did it feature the Square and Compasses, the chief symbol of Freemasonry. This may evince the strength of an institution that, at the time, had neither to advertise its existence, nor to attract members who had not themselves made the first approach"(Campbell 2015, p.10).

photo: awaba house, masonic hall, speers point

The conclusion of the report was that the Speers Point Masonic Hall "is interesting on both historical and architectural grounds" and was deemed to be of high heritage significance. It is currently vacant, awaiting refurbishment.

Reference

[Campbell, David] 2015 Statement of heritage impact : refurbishment of former Masonic Hall 81 Lake view St Speers Point Lot 14, Section B DP 4036 / prepared by E,J.E Heritage. Hamilton, N.S.W. : EJE Heritage, 2014.

Heritage information for the report written and researched by David Campbell.