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updated: 4/29/2017 8:14 PM

Naperville's masonic lodge marks 100-year milestone

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  • Video: Masons Euclid 65 Lodge

  • Before finding its home for the past 100 years at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. in downtown Naperville, the city's masonic fraternity, Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, met in six different locations over 69 years, secretary/historian Tim Ory says.

      Before finding its home for the past 100 years at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. in downtown Naperville, the city's masonic fraternity, Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, met in six different locations over 69 years, secretary/historian Tim Ory says.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Tim Ory, secretary/historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, says masonry is all about taking good men and giving them the tools to make themselves better.

      Tim Ory, secretary/historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, says masonry is all about taking good men and giving them the tools to make themselves better.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

The symbolism is rich and plentiful inside the wood-paneled rooms of the Naperville Masonic Temple.

Belief in a higher power is a cornerstone of Masonry and is illustrated in a painting on the ceiling of the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville.
  Belief in a higher power is a cornerstone of Masonry and is illustrated in a painting on the ceiling of the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville. - Daniel White | Staff Photographer

There's the all-seeing eye of God, painted into a mural at the center of the ceiling, along with three angels representing faith, hope and charity, all climbing Jacob's ladder toward the heavens.

There's a library filled with more than 1,500 books on the fraternity of freemasonry and its pursuit of perfection among men.

There are aprons for members, called master masons, to wear during meetings and a plain "preparation room" with nothing on the walls but an invocation to a higher power.

As the home of a 169-year-old fraternity called Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the temple should be a place filled with signs and emblems, images of meaning for men as they strive along the path from good to better, master masons say.

"This is like an oasis away from the rest of the world," said Tim Ory, a master mason and secretary/historian for the lodge. "People from all walks of life come to work on being better people."

The masons' oasis is hitting a milestone this year as the building at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. turns 100 years old. The group is marking the moment Monday, May 1, when master masons will place a new time capsule into the cornerstone to replace a 1916 capsule installed when construction began.

Tim Ory, secretary/historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, holds several coins unearthed from a 100-year-old time capsule in the cornerstone of the temple at 34 W. Jefferson Ave.
  Tim Ory, secretary/historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, holds several coins unearthed from a 100-year-old time capsule in the cornerstone of the temple at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. - Daniel White | Staff Photographer

"We are in charge of quite a historical monument," said Don Cowart, a master mason and vice president of the Naperville Masonic Temple Association, an umbrella organization that maintains the space where four groups of masons meet. "It is something that we take seriously to maintain and improve."

The latest round of improvements began in 2010 and continues this year with work to install new paneling in the temple. The project gives the masons another reason to look back with pride on the stories that gave the group a prominent presence among the leaders and decision-makers of Naperville.

Tim Ory, secretary/historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, points out past worshipful masters, many of whom, like town founder Joseph Naper, had an integral role in developing the Naperville area.
  Tim Ory, secretary/historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, points out past worshipful masters, many of whom, like town founder Joseph Naper, had an integral role in developing the Naperville area. - Daniel White | Staff Photographer

Ory has been researching such stories for the past 24 years, since he grew curious about the names and faces posted on the walls. The images depict past leaders, called worshipful masters for the lodge and high priests for the Euclid Chapter 13 Royal Arch Masons, another masonic organization that calls the century-old temple home.

Some of the names were familiar to a construction electrician from a family like the Orys, who have lived in Naperville for generations.

Take Joseph Naper, for instance. As town founder, Naper came to the area in 1831 and began building a village. Naper became the lodge's third worshipful master, after founding master Aylmer Keith and David Hess.

But not all of the names were so recognizable, so Ory searched newspaper archives at the library, photo archives at the Naper Settlement historical museum and records on ancestry.com. Not a day passes when Ory doesn't delve further into the heritage of the masons in his hometown.

A master masons chart, illustrates individuality, faith that in a higher power, responsibility to be a good citizen, honor and integrity, is one of many artifacts of symbolism found in the 100-year-old building that houses Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
  A master masons chart, illustrates individuality, faith that in a higher power, responsibility to be a good citizen, honor and integrity, is one of many artifacts of symbolism found in the 100-year-old building that houses Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. - Daniel White | Staff Photographer

"I found that the history of the lodge and the history of the city are intertwined," Ory said. "It became an obsession for me."

Ory can run down the names of the lodge's past worshipful masters, reciting which were farmers and which were doctors, which were village presidents or mayors -- there have been 22 over the years -- and which are still members today.

Indeed Ory's knowledge of masons in Naperville is proving helpful for the Naper Settlement, as he is updating the museum's photo collection and entering identifications for people and places into a computer system.

"Because he's done so much work on the masons here in Naperville, he knows so many of the family connections and is able to help identify these people," said Bryan Ogg, curator of research.

Symbolism runs deep inside the temple of the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, which sits above Naperville Running Company at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. downtown. The checkered carpet, for example, symbolizes the choice between good and evil.
  Symbolism runs deep inside the temple of the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, which sits above Naperville Running Company at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. downtown. The checkered carpet, for example, symbolizes the choice between good and evil. - Daniel White | Staff Photographer

While the masonic fraternity might seem shrouded in secrecy, Ory said the group opens its building at least once a year during its public installation of officers each November. Visitors can step above Naperville Running Company and into the royal blue carpeting and sky blue walls of the temple. They can watch new leaders take an oath and see younger ones rise from the lower ranks of entered apprentice or fellow craft to master mason.

Ory said masons can be from any race or religion but must profess a belief in a higher power. They can come from any profession but must refrain from discussing politics or religion while inside the temple. They aim, through learning, to improve themselves and their communities.

Tim Ory, secretary/historian for Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, points to words of wisdom in the preparation room, where prospective members ready themselves for ceremonies to rise from the lower ranks of entered apprentice and fellow craft to full acceptance as a master mason.
  Tim Ory, secretary/historian for Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Naperville, points to words of wisdom in the preparation room, where prospective members ready themselves for ceremonies to rise from the lower ranks of entered apprentice and fellow craft to full acceptance as a master mason. - Daniel White | Staff Photographer

"We are in no rush. We look at freemasonry as a lifelong pursuit," Ory said. "Freemasonry is about character building. Trying to become a better person. That's why we use the emblems and tools of architecture and geometry to symbolize building a temple within."

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