Masonry had an early beginning in the Willoughby area dating 28 years from the year that President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the Capital building of the United States. On March 5th, 1821, Most Worshipful Grand Master John Snow granted a dispensation to a group of Freemasons to form Saint Jerome Lodge #62 in the township then called Chagrin.
These early Masons met in their homes. Though Saint Jerome #62 only existed for ten years, the principals of Freemasonry were diligently spread and practiced in the area. On January 19th, 1858 a dispensation was issued to nine petitioners to form Willoughby Lodge. Willoughby Lodge #302 met in rented halls in this area.
On November 26th, 1918 a Temple Corporation was formed by some of the members to find a permanent home for Willoughby #302. An article in a “Special Masonic Edition” of the Lake County News Herald stated that Dr. Herbert Kenning, Past Master of Willoughby Lodge #302 and J.W. Carmichael, Mayor of Willoughby conceived the idea to purchase a property from the estate of O.F. Bunnell, consisting of a house and land. On February 3rd, 1919 the estate of O.F. Bunnell sold the land on which Willoughby Lodge #302 is located for the price of $5250.00 to be held until a building program would be possible. From notes signed by a few members of the Lodge, the title was taken in the names of Kennings and Carmichael as Trustees.
On January 14th, 1921 the Willoughby Masonic Building Company was chartered by the State of Ohio with a capitalization of $10,000.00 and a common stock to be sold at $50.00 a share. By 1922 the notes were paid and the deed received. By 1927, $96,000.00 of stock had been sold at $100.00 a share.
Architect, John H. Graham was hired in the fall of 1927. Plans and specifications for the building were prepared, bids taken and a contract was let. Work started on January 24th, 1928, by the Mitzel Construction of Cleveland, Ohio.
The laying of the cornerstone of the $125,000.00 Masonic Temple was on Sunday, March 25th, 1928 and was one of the most vivid and impressive affairs in the Masonic history of Willoughby. At 2pm Grand Lodge was opened and at 2:30pm a parade was formed at the Lodge room and marched to the new Temple with the Willoughby High School band playing. Officers of the Lodge in full regalia and carrying Masonic symbols added color to the line of march. L.W. Penfield, President of the Masonic Building Company, presented the trowel used to cement the corner stone in place to Deputy Grand Master, J. Philip Perry of Jefferson.
The copper box placed in the cornerstone held the first gavel used by the present Lodge in 1885; a complete roster of members and officers of the Willoughby Blue Lodge, F.& A.M. #302; Charles A. Norton Chapter, R.&A.M. #228 and Eastern Star Chapter #202. In addition was included a complete Masonic history of Willoughby dating from 1821, as well as the Treasurers jewel and other Masonic items. In order that the crowd might hear the details of the program, four loudspeakers were installed. More than 400 Masons from all part of the country were in attendance. The building was dedicated as a memorial to those sterling Masons and the appendant bodies who contribute to the advancement of Freemasonry.
A lease was drawn up on July 25th, 1928 that stated, the Willoughby Masonic Building Company would lease to the Willoughby Masonic Lodge #302 the first floor south lobby with an office off the lobby, the total third floor, second floor and basement except for the boiler room for a price of $100.00 per month and a 20 year lease was signed.
Masonry has flourished over the past eighty years in Willoughby, Ohio and the building has served us well. In May of 2008 Willoughby #302, F & A.M., celebrated its 150th year anniversary.