From Preservation Issues, Volume 3, Number 1

Most Worshipful Prince Hall Lodge Nominated.

by Bonnie Stepenoff
In Revolutionary Massachusetts, a black man named Prince Hall organized the first group of African American Freemasons. From the 1770s to the present, Prince Hall Freemasons have added a vital element of stability to the black community, especially in urban centers. During the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, when the push for economic betterment and social justice collided with the rising power of Jim Crow, black fraternal organizations acted as support groups for the black middle class and sources of aid for the poor and displaced.

Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge #2, 3615-19 Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard (formerly Easton Avenue), served as the primary meeting place for black Freemasons in St. Louis from 1909 to the 1940s. When the Negro Masonic Hall Association acquired the property in 1909, there were nine different groups of African American Freemasons in the city. Membership included many of the most prominent educators, businessmen, and professionals in the local black community.

Prince Hall Freemasons encouraged black entrepreneurs. After 1909, many businesses owned by black St. Louisans occupied space on the main floor of the meeting hall. Meeting rooms occupied the second and third floors of the large brick building constructed in the 1880s.

Following World War II, St. Louis' Prince Hall Freemasons moved their headquarters to 4525 Olive Street, although some groups continued to meet in the old building until the 1980s. The wedge-shaped building with Romanesque features on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the areas of Commerce and Ethnic Heritage-Black.

About the Author: Bonnie Stepenoff is a free-lance history and archives research consultant from Jefferson City. Stepenoff has written National Register nominations for a number of Missouri properties including the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge #2.

All text and photos are taken from Preservation Issues
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Historic Preservation Program, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102
Editor: Karen Grace
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