CHINESE FREE MASONS BUILDING
310 - 2 Avenue South, Lethbridge, Alberta, T1J, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Chinese Free Masons Building is a two-storey brick and wood frame structure, occupying one half of one city lot on 2nd Avenue South in the historic Old Chinatown district of Lethbridge.
The heritage value of the Chinese Free Masons Building lies in its role as a social and cultural centre for Lethbridge's Chinese community. Built in 1924, through Canada-wide donations, the building served as a meeting place for the Lethbridge branch of the Chinese Free Masons, founded in 1922.
The Chinese community has a long history in southern Alberta, dating primarily to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. (Indeed, this site was previously occupied by a wooden frame dwelling used by Chinese "sojourners" between 1913 and 1918). The Chinese Free Masons were originally affiliated with the Chee Kung Ton society, dedicated to overthrowing the ruling Qing Dynasty in China and the oldest Chinese association in Canada (dating to 1862). The Free Masons, however, became more concerned with issues typical of voluntary fraternal organizations, such as welfare assistance and education. The second floor of the building was used for secret meetings of the Masons as well for a Chinese language school for the children of members. An inner lodge of privileged members, the Dart Coon Club, met secretly in the basement during its early years; new immigrants were sometimes temporarily housed here as well. In addition, the building was the site of several Masonic conventions.
Together with the Chinese National League Building located across the street, the Chinese Free Masons Building represents a direct historical link with the development of Lethbridge's China Town, when City Bylaws required that Chinese-owned buildings be situated in a segregated area. The ornate facade of the Chinese Free Masons Building contrasts greatly with the austerity of the frontier facade of the Chinese National Building, a physical manifestation of the political and ideological differences between the two most important societies in the city's Chinese community between 1905 and 1925.
The Free Masons Building is the most distinctive building on an important historic block that speaks to the presence of a long lasting cultural community and the multicultural history of southern Alberta.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1270)
The character-defining elements of the Chinese Free Masons Building include:
- form (rectangular), scale and massing;
- flat roof with palisade-type roofline.
- south elevation sunken rear lot landscape;
- brick masonry detailing, double hung window details, sills and lintels;
- rear wood fire-escape;
- brick masonry detailing, double hung window details, sills and lintels.
Front (North) Elevation
- the brick masonry elements and the two large display windows dividing the central main floor;
- small side door access to the second floor with brick arch containing hand painted Masonic symbols;
- recessed second floor balcony with arched brick openings and large divided window, flanked by arched window openings on either side;
- hand painted Chinese character signage above the balcony and on the sign band;
- Chinese Free Masons sign on the sign band over the balcony arch.
- flag poles.
Original remaining elements and fittings of the interior of the Chinese Free Masons building such as:
- pressed metal ceiling on the main level;
- fir flooring main and second floor;
- lath and plaster walls and ceiling (second floor);
- interior fittings such as baseboards, door and window trim, wall mounted light fixtures(second floor);
- furnishings such as the oak podium (second floor).
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Migration and Immigration
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Civic Space
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1270)
Cross-Reference to Collection