HISTORY of Burlingame Lodge

There were Masonic Lodges to the north and to the south on the Peninsula in 1908, but none in Burlingame. A number of brethren decided our city needed such a group. A meeting was called on March 17, 1908 at 8:15 p.m., in the Southern Pacific waiting room inviting interested Masons to attend. The chairman appointed Louis A. Murch, Acting Master; Fred A. Lorton, Senior Warden; and William E. Stewart, Junior Warden. They voted to rent Weinberg Hall on Lorton Avenue as a meeting place for $20 per month and requested dispensation from M.W.G.M. George N. Perine.

At a second meeting, held on April 10, Clarence F. Bovee was named Secretary, a charter fee of $10 was established, and 24 brothers agreed to become charter members. From then on project of creating a new Lodge gathered increasing momentum. The official dispensation was received on July 8, 1908 from Grand Lodge. Fred Colby (patron of the new O.E.S. chapter) agreed to ask the ladies to make the necessary aprons and George Beebe tackled the task of building the required furniture.

The first stated meeting was held on July 14, and at that time seven applications were received. The membership also authorized the Master and Wardens to find a site, make plans, erect, and furnish a building.

P. Bontecou Goss was the first applicant to be raised on September 26, 1908. A month later, M.W.G.M. Oscar Lawler officiated at the chartering ceremony held at San Mateo Masonic Temple. In 1909 the Lodge continued to be more active, and to add more members. But its treasury as woefully low. Despite this fact, on July 17,1909 the cornerstone was laid for a Masonic Temple on Burlingame Avenue, with Grand Lodge officers and other dignitaries present, as well as the 5th Infantry Band. This structure was later occupied by the Odd Fellows Lodge and Millbrae Lodge No. 792 F. & A. M. The Masonic symbol on the cornerstone may still be plainly seen on the present Avenue Arcade.

In 1910 Burlingame Masonic Hall Association was formed to manage the newly dedicated building and to pay off the debt on it. In 1911, the Widows and Orphans Fund, another group affiliated with the fraternity was founded.

For the next nine years the Lodge and Hall Association waged a constant battle to pay off the money due on the temple. The building was only part of the expense; all of its furnishings also had to be acquired. Another problem was a lack of suitable tenants. So, in 1920, when a satisfactory offer was made for purchasing the building and renting it back, the proposal was accepted.

Meanwhile, there were other problems. One of the most perplexing was that of jurisdiction. Where were the boundaries of the area from which Burlingame No. 400 was entitled to draw new members? Many discussions were held with San Mateo and Francis Drake before a final settlement of the matter was reached.

During World War I, members of the fraternity did a variety of patriotic services, i.e., the Masonic Ambulance Corps in San Francisco, organized a Home Defense Committee, took steps to keep in touch with members overseas and to look out for families left behind, sold war stamps, and gave dances for brethren at Camp Fremont. As the war ended In 1918, the Widows and Orphans Fund was put on a regular basis, the first celebration of Public Schools Week was held and the first life membership was purchased and immediately refunded.

ln 1921, a lot 100×100 ft. at Primrose and Burlingame Avenue was acquired for a new temple. Part of this lot measuring 100×75 ft. was sold in 1924. In 1925, the remainder of the property was traded in a three-way deal, which moved a church and brought the Lodge to its present site at Howard Avenue and Park Road.

During the early 20’s, also, the Lodge had such experiences as receiving 44 affiliates in a single evening, hearing its first radio program (a broadcast by M.W.G.M. Charles F. Adams), and printing its first membership roster.

In 1925 and 1926, the Lodge worked with the problem of how to finance the $180,000 structure whose design it had accepted. The fraternity had about $40,000 in cash from fees, dues and trading real estate. With a bank loan the Temple was started in 1926, completed in mid-1927, and dedicated on October 22, 1927.

During the early 1920’s the Lodge achieved another goal – that of 400 members for No. 400. Member­ship continued to grow during the latter part of the decade, reaching a peak near 500 in 1928. Thus good progress was made in retiring the debt on the building. By the end of 1930, the amount owed was under $100,000 and the financial situation appeared sound.

Then, however, the stock market crashed and the Lodge’s members like all other Americans, were caught in the national disaster. Many were unable to pay their dues, even though the charges were re­duced. Petitions for degrees fell off from the one-time flood to the merest trickle. Although Lodge bills were still paid on time, the financial burden of the Temple appeared insupportable.

The bank holding the deed had full confidence in the fraternity, and encouraged the Hall Association to see the panic through. By the late 1930’s the membership had declined to its lowest point, less than 390, and had begun slowly to grow again.

The 1940’s brought smooth sailing to the craft. The Lodge was busy with degree work, the Temple debt was rapidly reduced, and finally, on October 26, 1951 the fraternity had the happy privilege of burn­ing the mortgage.

In 1954 membership had grown so rapidly that several dozen members of Burlingame No. 400 joined with others of the craft to form a new Lodge, Hillsborough No. 737. On June 3, 1954, 46 charter members and their guests attended dinner and institution ceremonies at Francis Drake Temple conducted by M.W.G.M. Frank Harwell, Jr. The new lodge had successfully initiated, passed, and raised five candidates from the time of institution and was constituted November 5, 1954, by M.W.G.M. Henry C. Clausen.

Another group of Master Masons in Millbrae formed, in 1935; the Millbrae Masonic Club with Dr. Henry Huppert elected first president. They met monthly and as membership grew, desired to form a new lodge. S.G.W. Alfred F. Beslauer instituted the Lodge on March 8, 1959, at Francis Drake Temple.

M.W.G.M. Joe L. Shell presided for the constitution of Millbrae Lodge No. 792 with 52 charter mem­ber Many items of equipment for the new Lodge were made or contributed by charter members and their wives. The Lodge met in the Odd Fellows-Hall in Burlingame until 1963 and in the Millbrae Community Methodist Church until 1974.

In 1974, declining membership and lack of prospective officers forced the Lodge to consolidate with Hillsborough Lodge No. 737 to form Patriot Lodge No. 737. Consolidation again occurred in November 1981, at which time Hillsborough No. 737 returned to Burlingame No. 400 from which it had emerged 27 years earlier.

Another consolidation occurred on November 1, 1992, when Blue Lakes Lodge No.714, in San Bruno, consolidated with Burlingame No. 400. A further proof, of the successful unity in the Masonic fraternity.

In 1993 the Lodge initiated a Scholarship program for local high school students, for continuing their education at the community colleges.

In 1999, Burlingame No. 400, became more involved with the community by initiating a Teachers Wish-List Program and contributing to the six public schools in Burlingame, and also conducting the Kids ID program with the cooperation of Burlingame Police Department.

The members of the Lodge have always taken an active interest in the affairs of their communities. They have served as Mayors, Councilmen, College and School Board Members, Community and Church Leaders and in the various trades and professions.

At this time with a membership of over 160, Burlingame No. 400, looks forward to the 100 year anniversary of its building in 2027, confident and strong that it will uphold the rich tradition of its heritage both in Masonry and in the city of Burlingame.

“So Mote It Be”

  • Excerpt taken from the program presented at Burlingame Lodge 400’s Diamond Jubilee in 2008