Masonic Hall



The Masonic Hall at 23A Coleman Street is located near the Central Fire Station at the foot of Fort Canning Hill.1 Designed by Thomas A Cargill, a municipal engineer and a Freemason,2 the foundation stone of the Masonic Hall was laid in April 1879. The building was consecrated on 27 December later that year.3

History
The first and oldest Freemason lodge in Singapore is Lodge Zetland in the East No. 748, which was consecrated on 26 February 1845. Prior to the Masonic Hall on Coleman Street, the lodge held their meetings at various premises:4

1845–1846: Masonic Rooms, Armenian Street
1846–1848: House on High Street
1848–1853: Room at North Bridge Road
1853–1856: Masonic Hall, North Bridge Road
1856–1871: House of Thomas Church, Esplanade
1871–1873: 15 Beach Road, Kampong Glam
1873–1875: 10 Beach Road
1875–1878: 59 Hill Street

William Napier and William Henry Macleod Read were the first and second Singapore Freemasons to be initiated.5 The latter became the first District Grand Master of the Eastern Archipelago from 1858 to 1885.6 Although Freemasonry in Singapore started with members who were Christians, it later became cosmopolitan and accepted members of all races and creeds.7

The land grant for the Masonic Hall was issued in 1878 to District Grand Master Read and his successors, but on the condition that the building would be used for Freemasonry and erected within the two years of the issuance of grant.8

Description
The foundation stone of the Masonic Hall in Singapore was laid on 14 April 1879, and the building was consecrated on 27 December that same year.9 Designed by Thomas A. Cargill, a Freemason and municipal engineer,10 the building was built in the English Renaissance style, which was then commonly used in England for government and public buildings.11


The Freemason Hall was built as a single-storey building with a second storey added by 1888.12 The building remained largely intact thereafter until a major rebuilding scheme was started in around 1910, during which the old porch was torn down and the entire frontage to Coleman Street rebuilt.13

A conserved building, the Freemasons’ Hall is still actively in use and houses the Masonic Lodges, other Masonic bodies and the Masonic Club in Singapore.14 The building’s basement houses the Masonic library and offices, while the ground floor is occupied by a kitchen, restaurant and bar. Members of the public are allowed to dine in the restaurant. The second floor of the building, known as the Temple, has various rooms used for Masonic meetings and ceremonies.15 The iconic Masonic symbols of the square and the compass can be clearly seen on the building’s facade.16

In 2009, the building was scheduled for a S$7-million makeover.17

Freemason Lodges in Singapore
Currently, there are 14 Masonic Lodges that meet at the Freemasons’ Hall in Singapore, each of them adopting a charity every year.18 The lodges in Singapore hold meetings at the Masonic Hall in Coleman Street once a month at different times. These meetings are black-tie affairs and include the teaching of moral values through two-part plays. Each session lasts about an hour.19


In 2002, the Masonic Hall organised an open house in an effort to quell prevailing myths and rumours about the group’s secrecy and its practices. The open house included a blood-donation drive and the presentation of cheques to charities as well as movie tickets for needy children.20



Author
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
2. Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS]); Lim, K. H. (Ed.). (2002). The Lodge Singapore, no. 7178 E.C., 1952–2002. Singapore: The Lodge Singapore, no. 7178 E.C., 2002, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING q366.1095957 FRE); Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
3. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 593. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS]); Corfield, J. (2011). Historical dictionary of Singapore [Ebook]. Scarecrow Press, p. 90. Retrieved via NLB catalogue website: http://search.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC); Lim, K. H. (1995). In the chair of King Solomon. Singapore: L. K. Hui, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 LIM); Lim, K. H. (Ed.). (2002). The Lodge Singapore, no. 7178 E.C., 1952–2002. Singapore: The Lodge Singapore, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING q366.1095957 FRE); Long, S. (1995, December 8). Hush-hush world of the freemasons. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS]); Lim, K. H. (1995). In the chair of King Solomon. Singapore: L. K. Hui, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 LIM); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 437. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: a pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
7. Lim, K. H. (1995). In the chair of King Solomon. Singapore: L. K. Hui, pp. 21–23. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 LIM)
8. Lim, K. H. (Ed.). (2002). The Lodge Singapore, no. 7178 E.C., 1952–2002. Singapore: The Lodge Singapore, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING q366.1095957 FRE); Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: a pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
9. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 593. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
10. Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS]); Lim, K. H. (Ed.). (2002). The Lodge Singapore, no. 7178 E.C., 1952–2002. Singapore: The Lodge Singapore, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING q366.1095957 FRE); Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
11. Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
12. Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
13. Lim, K. H. (Ed.). (2002). The Lodge Singapore, no. 7178 E.C., 1952–2002. Singapore: The Lodge Singapore, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING q366.1095957 FRE)
14. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). My conservation portal. (2016). 23A Coleman Street. Masonic Hall–Conserved Building. Retrieved 2017, January 17 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.ura.gov.sg/conservationportal/consmap.html; Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS]); Macdonald, C. N. (2008). Freemason’s Hall Singapore: A pictorial appreciation of the home of Singapore Freemasonry since 1879. Singapore: Colin Neil Macdonald. (Call no.: RSING 366.1095957 MAC)
15. Long, S. (1995, December 8). Hush-hush world of the freemasonsThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 77–78. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])
17. Tan, H. Y. (2008, December 6). Going strong after 150 years. The Straits Times, p. 28; Sreenivasan, V. (2008, December 8). Veil lifts a tad on a fascinating social network. The Business Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Lien AID. (2015, February 2015). Five minutes with Alexander Maroske from Sir Stamford Raffles Lodge. Retrieved 2017, January 17 from the Lien Aid website: http://www.lienaid.org/five-minutes-with-alexander-maroske/
19. Long, S. (1995, December 8). Hush-hush world of the freemasonsThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Home. (2002, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 2; Sim, C. Y. (2002, June 21). 'Come visit us, we've got nothing to hide'. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 364.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])

The pentagram. (1994). Singapore: Library Committee, District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago.
(Call no.: RSING 366.109595 P)



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Historic buildings--Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Organisations
Historic buildings
Organisations>>Associations
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>> Historic Buildings
Freemasonry--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings