Masonic Buildings and Sites

Of Charleston, South Carolina

By: McDonald “Don” Burbidge, 33º

Along with the many important Masonic events that took place in Charleston it should also be noted where some of these important events took place. Some of the building still exists today and some have been replaced with modern buildings.  The one thing that can never be replaced is what important events took place at these sites.

 46 Broad St.  (Site of “Brother Charles” Shepheard’s Tavern)

Site of Shepheard's Tavern, also known at various times as Swallow's Tavern, The City Tavern and The Corner Tavern. Charleston's taverns were more than just eating and drinking establishments, and at this location occurred many historically important events. One was the organization of one of the first Masonic lodges in the United States.

 Solomon's Lodge No. 1, Free and Accepted Masons, was organized on Oct. 29, 1736, at 'Mr. Charles Shepheard 's in Broad Street ‘. The first Scottish Rite lodge, the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, was organized at the same location in 1801. The first record of a theatrical season in Charleston, and one of the first in the country, was announcement in the South Carolina Gazette, Jan. 11, 1735, that on the following 24th, a tragedy called The Orphan, or the Unhappy Marriage, by Thomas Otway, would be "'attempted'' in ''the Courtroom.'' The ''courtroom'' was the long room of Shepheard's Tavern, which was rented for several years prior to 1738 to the provincial government for meetings of the court, since the Province had no suitable building and the Governor and Council could not agree on where one should be built. The use of the same room for court sessions and entertainment’s was not unusual. A dancing master, Henry Holt, gave a ball in the Courtroom a month before The Orphan was presented there. (The Orphan was not the first theatrical production in Charleston. Tony Aston, an English actor, in 1703, wrote and acted what was probably the first professional dramatic performance written and acted in the American colonies.) Shepheard's was also one of the city's post offices. In 1743, Shepheard received and distributed mail arriving on ships and by land. In 1773, when the establishment was Swallow's Tavern, the first Chamber of Commerce in America was formed. Banquets were given for arriving Royal Governors at Shepheard's Tavern (also at Dillon's and Poinsettia’s taverns). The St. Andrew's Society, and other fraternal organizations in the city, held their meetings and dinners at Shepheard's (and at Dillon's, Kerr's, etc.) The Corner Tavern (and Charles Town's other taverns) also hosted meetings of the Sons of liberty during the Revolutionary period. The City Tavern burned in 1796 but was soon replaced. The tavern building was demolished in 1928 for the construction, in 1928-29, of the present building. The Classic style building faced with Indiana limestone, which cost $280,000 and was known as the Citizens and Southern Bank in 1906.

106 Broad St.  ( Brother John Lining House)

When William Harvey and his wife Sarah sold the property to Charles and Elizabeth Hill, it was described as having a "Large Dwelling house thereon erected." The Hills were the parents of Sarah Lining, wife of Dr. John Lining. Charles Hill died after making his will in 1734, leaving the property to his wife Elizabeth, whom in 1747, married the Rev. Samuel Quincy, then of Dorchester and later of Bewly, Hampshire. She subsequently died, bequeathing the property to her daughter Sarah Lining, and in 1757, Jacob Motte, as her trustee, conveyed the property to the daughter. On March 5, 1757, Quincy gave a quick claim to John and Sarah Lining. On the same date, they conveyed the property to John Rattray. Lining's residences and the locations at which he conducted his scientific experiments have not been documented. In 1733, Dr. Lining advertised his address as Broad Street "opposite Mr. Crokatt 's."

Dr. John Lining (1708-1760), a native of Scotland came to Charles Town at the age of 22, and in 1737 began the first weather observations made with scientific instruments and systematically reported, on the American continent. He also conducted on himself experiments in human metabolism (1740); believed to have been the first such experiments made anywhere. He corresponded with Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia on the subject of electricity and carried out Franklin's famous kite and key experiment in a local thunderstorm. Dr. Lining also made studies on yellow fever and wrote one of the first published accounts of that disease. The results of Dr. Lining's experiments were published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of London, and in Gentleman's Magazine, resulting in correspondence between Lining and European scientists.

 Lewis Timothee who was a protege of Benjamin Franklin operated his newspaper from this house after he replaced Thomas Whitmarsh when he passed away in 1734. When Lewis died in 1738, his widow Elizabeth, with the help of her half-grown son Peter, continued the paper as the first woman editor and publisher in America. Later Peter Timothy, aided by his wife, the former Ann Donovan, made the South Carolina Gazette a major Patriot organ. For that reason, it was suspended during the British occupation, 1780-83. In 1783 the widowed Ann Timothy revived the paper as the Gazette of the State of South Carolina, which, after her death in 1793 was continued by her son Benjamin Franklin Timothy until 1802. During the Timothy family ownership, the paper was published in this house.

 In addition, the apothecary of Dr. Andrew Turnbull occupied the building, some time between his arrival in Charles Town in 1781 and his death in 1792. His was the first of a series of drug stores in the building and when Schwettman's, the last establishment, closed in 1960, the apothecary shop interior was moved to the Charleston Museum. Dr. Turnbull previously had founded the Greek colony, New Smyrna, in East Florida. He refused to renounce his loynalty to the Crown, but remained in South Carolina after the British evacuation in 1783. His wife Maria Garcia, a native of Smyrna is believed to have been Charleston's first Greek resident. The Lining House was in danger of demolition in 1961, when the Preservation Society of Charleston bought and restored it. The Society sold it in 1972 for use as a private residence.

160 Calhoun St.  (Formally the Site of the Charleston Orphan House)

From its founding in October 1790, Ill. Brother John Mitchell was one of the Commissioners of the Orphan House at Charleston, A tablet commemorating the first meeting of the Commissioners on October 28, 1790 lists Mitchell second after Major Charles Lining, and he is recorded as being present at every meeting thereafter until 1794. The minutes show no one more active than Colonel Mitchell in promoting public support for the Orphan House and in the management of its affairs during the difficult first years. On Saturday May 7, 1791 President George Washington, with the City Intendment and Wardens, visited the Orphans House, and Mitchell is listed as the senior Commissioner receiving him, afterwards entertaining him at breakfast in the Commissioners’ Room.  

The Charleston Orphan House, the oldest municipal orphanage in the United States, was founded October 18, 1790, at the instigation of John Robertson, a philanthropic citizen and a member of City Council. It’s main purpose was to establish the Institution for the “purpose of supporting and educating poor and orphan children and those of poor and disabled parents who are unable to support and maintain them. 

The children were fed by homegrown food, dressed in homespun clothing, and educated in the building by former students trained by the Principal of the School. This method of management was established in order to reduce the cost of maintaining the children.

Commissioners of the Charleston Orphan House list John Mitchell as one starting on October 25, 1790 and ending on November 27, 1794. 

The Charleston Orphan House stood at the corner of Calhoun and St. Philip’s Streets. Built on the former site of the Revolutionary War Barracks, the Institution was officially occupied October 18, 1794.  

A set of tablets containing the names of the first commissioners- Arnoldus Vanderhorst, Charles Lining, John Mitchell, John Robertson, Richard Cole, Thomas Corbett, William Marshall, Thomas Jones, and Samuel Beekman, and also, individual tablets to John Robertson, was made and put on pubic display at the Orphan House. 

At the one-hundredth anniversary of the Orphan House a banner was made. On the front of the banner it had written; 1790 Charleston Orphan House 1890. On the back of the banner located in the center was a drawing of a ship anchor with a chain on it. Above the anchor is the word “Faith” and below it is written “Charity.” 

270 King St.

The Masonic Temple in the Tudor Gothic style was built in 1871-72 of brick and stucco. The architect, John Henry Devereux, though a Roman Catholic took the Entered Apprentice Degree of Masonry in orders to curb possible criticism that a non-Mason designed the building. The building has been remodeled several times, but the beauty of the original design has not been totally obliterated.

Mazyckborough (Site of The Liberty Tree)

Joseph Purcell, surveyor, laid out Mazyckborough for Alexander Mazyck in 1786. Chapel, Elizabeth and Calhoun streets and the Cooper River bound it. 

Before its development, the tract was known as Mazyk’s Pasture, in the corner of, which stood a large oak tree, which became known as The Liberty Oak because it was "formally dedicated to Liberty" by a group of "Mechanics" and other inhabitants of the town. 

The Sons of Liberty meet the live oak tree in the pasture of Mr. Mazyck’s property, which they named on October 1,1768,  “The Liberty Tree.” Under this tree Christopher Gadsden first advocated colonial independence in 1766, and where 10 years later the Declaration of Independence was first heard and applauded by South Carolinians. Gadsden and his fellow revolutionaries, who led public meetings protested the British Stamp Act and later the Tea Tax. 

George Flagg drew up a list of people meeting under the Liberty Tree, in 1766. Among the meetings held at the Liberty Tree were public meetings, which continued as such during the Revolutionary period. 

In the South Carolina Gazette the following was published about a meeting held by the “Club 45” members. 

About 5 o’clock they all removed to a most noble “LIVE OAK” tree, in Mr. Mazyk’s pasture, which they formally dedicated to LIBERTY, where many loyal, patriotic, and constitutional toasts were drank, beginning with the glorious “NINETY-TWO” Anti-Rescinds of Massachusetts-Bay, and ending with, unanimity among the members of our ensuing Assembly not to rescind from the said resolution (to boycott England), each succeeded by three huzzahs. 

In the evening, the tree was decorated with 45 lights, and 45 skyrockets were fired.  

About 8 o’clock, the whole company, preceded by 45 of their number, marched in regular procession to town, down King-Street and Broad Street, to Mr. Robert Dillion’s tavern; where the 45 lights being placed upon the table, with 45 bowls of punch, 45 bottles of wine, and 92 glasses, they spent a few hours in a new round of toasts, among which, scarce a celebrated Patriot of Britain or America was omitted; and preserving the same good order and regularity as had been observed throughout the day, at 10 they retired.   

When the British occupied Charles Town in 1780, they cut down the Liberty Tree to prevent its becoming a Patriot shrine. So that the destruction would be complete, they built a fire over the remaining stump. Later the root was dug up and made into cane-heads, one of which was given to President Thomas Jefferson.  

Marine Lodge No. 38  (Located on “Lodge Alley”)

The Marine Lodge of Masons, which is the “Junior” in this Town, is the First that is possessed of a Lodge Room, having lately purchased a very convenient one.

The South Carolina Gazette

May 31, 1773 

South Carolina, during the Colonial period, and after the close of the Revolution, proved a fertile field for the various Masonic Bodies; thus, in the early days, we find a Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, “Moderns,” with a number of Subordinate Lodges. The Grand Lodge of South Carolina Ancient York Masons, Lodges working under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and another St. Andrew’s, under a warrant from the Grand Lodge at St. Augustine “The Grand Lodge of Perfection,” and later the Cerneau Rite of Perfection, and others of lesser importance. 

When the “Grand Lodge of South Carolina, Ancient York Masons,” was formed by the five “Ancient: Lodges in Charleston, January 1, 1787, in which movement Marine Lodge, No. 38, was a prominent factor, it is a noteworthy fact, that at least three of the principal officers were Pennsylvania Masons, viz. Hon. William Drayton, Grand Master; Hon. Mordecai Gist, Deputy Grand Master; Edward Weyman, Esq., Senior Grand Warden. 

Lodge No. 38 appear to have been represented by proxy upon the September 25, 1786, when the Grand Lodge asserted its Independence. No returns or further reports from this Lodge have been found in the Archives of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. It is known, however that Marine Lodge, No. 38, became an active body, spreading Masonic light and charity in the town wherein it was located, and in 1787, became one of the five “Ancient” Lodges that formed the Grand Lodge of South Carolina Ancient York Masons.

 The Hebrew Orphan House of David Lopez who became its first president founded the Hebrew Orphan Society in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina. David Lopez was laid to rest in the Jewish Coming Street Cemetery. 

At the first meeting of the Hebrew Society for the establishment of the Jewish Orphan House was attended by twenty-three Charleston Jews which comprised of two of the founding fathers of the Supreme Council. 

Emmanuel De La Motta who was a commission merchant and auctioneer was an active 33° Mason who was one of the original founders of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite and held the office of Treasurer-General. 

Moses C. Levy a prominent merchant was also one of the original founders of the Supreme Council with the title of Inspector Generals of the Supreme Council 33º.   

No records have survived prior to 1850 due to the Charleston fires and storms. Since then the minutes of the Society are continuous except for the Civil War period, 1862-1866. 

Except for a brief period in the 1860s. The Society did not maintain an orphanage, but domiciled orphans with selected families. Said Elzas, the Jewish historian, "In this way, in addition to the pecuniary assistance given, the misfortune of orphanage was softened and the little ones were permitted to live in a healthful family atmosphere." Following the great fire of 1838, which destroyed the synagogue on Hasell Street, the congregation of Beth Elohin worshiped here until the present synagogue, was completed in 1840.  

Like the Charleston Orphan House the Hebrew Orphan Society had one rule that determined if a child could or could not be admitted, “No child under two years of age and none over 14 years be received, except in special cases.” 

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s church was completed in 1761 and is the oldest church edifice in the city of Charleston. Built on this same spot was the first church of St. Philip’s or as the population called it, “Church of England.” By 1727 the town had grown too large for the small church and a more spacious one was built of brick on Church Street which was called St. Philip’s II for a time.  

When George Washington tour through Charleston in 1791 he attended church services here at St. Michael’s. The clock and ring of eight bells in St. Michael's steeple were imported in 1764 from England. 

During the year 1811-1812 Ill. Brother Frederick Dalcho and his wife owned pew number 89. The location of this pew is in the same location today as it was in 1811.

St. Michael’s church has a rich Masonic history from it’s early years on. Ill. Brother Frederick Dalcho was the Assistant Rector along with being the superintendent of the Sunday school children. In a recently discovered letter written by Dalcho he asks the Warden’s of the church for permission to locate a book shelf in the balcony of the church for the Sunday School children to store their books. 

Following a number of part-time associations with St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina, he was retained as an assistant minister on February 23, 1819. In 1824 he established with others, “The Charleston Gospel Messenger and Protestant Episcopal Resgister”, a monthly journal of the Church’s activities.  This paper was published monthly until 1853. His monumental work at this period was a history of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the first published history of any diocese in America.  Consisting of more than 600 pages. All of Dr. Fredrick Dalcho’s book were sold at the, ”The Theological Book Store” in Charleston, South Carolina located at 51 Board Street.

At and after the installation of The Grand Lodge officers were complete, a procession was formed and paraded to St. Michael’s church where Rev. Brother Dalcho, Grand Chaplain delivered the Divine Service. His sermon was based on the text John12: 36, “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” Dalcho remarked in his sermon that;

Free-Masonry, like the Religion of the Redeemer, is eminently calculated to dispense “peace on earth, and good will towards men.” And if the moral and religious state of the community in which it flourishes, be not increased and refined by its influence, it must be charged to the perversity of the Brotherhood, and not to the principles of the Institution. The general application of its principles and practice to the spiritual and temporal welfare of men cannot be doubted. It binds its members by the strongest sanctions, “to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly before God;” and to “love the Brotherhood.” 

Ill. Bro. Frederick Dalcho, M. D.  and his wife is buried in the graveyard of this historic churchyard.  

St. Philip’s Church

St. Philip’s church was first erected at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets between the years 1681 and 1682. The structure was made of black cypress and the foundation was made of brick. After a prosper start it was usually referred to as the “English Church,” but the real name was St.Philip’s. 

As Charles Town evolved into prosperous colonial metropolis, the need for a new church was realized. As early as 1711 the Assembly authorized “a new church built of brick with a tower or steeple, and a ring of bells therein.” A decade later the “brick church” was still incomplete. The Assembly passed another bill in December 1720, which empowered the Commissioners to determine the dimensions, materials, and finish the church. To raise the money for this, the bill also called for “An additional duty of three pence per gallon to be laid on rum, and five pence per gallon on brandy and other spirits.” 

When the new edifice of the “Established Church” rose at the head of one of the town’s principal through fares, the street became known as Church Street as does the present building on the same site. 

On December 27, 1762 and again in December 1784 Right Rev. Robert Smith presented to the Masons of Charles-Town a Masonic sermon, which he called “Charity Sermon for the Masons No. 100.” This sermon has gone unnoticed since it was last given to the Brethren of Charles-Town until it was recently re-discovered. This sermon is perhaps one of the earliest if not one of the first Masonic sermons of its kind presented in Charles-Town to the Masons. It should also be noted that Right Rev. Smith established the College of Charleston and the Society for the Widows and Orphans of the Clergy, which still exists today. Rev. Frederick Dalcho, M.D., was also a member of the Society for the Widows and Orphans of the Clergy.

 On Christmas Day, 1805, Dr. Dalcho and Mary Elizabeth Threadcraft were married in St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, by Rev. Dr. Edward Jenkins. This was Dr. Dalcho’s second marriage and his wife was to survive him until December 12, 1852. There were no children, from this marriage. 

During the summer months of 1814 our late Ill. Brother Frederick Dalcho, M.D. officiated at the church as Rector for the summer months until a new Rector could be found to fill the vacant spot left by the untimely death of Rev. J. D. Simons. 

Buried in the graveyard of St. Philip’s church you will find the grave of Ill. Brother James Moultrie, Sr. who was a founder of the Supreme Council.

Scottish Rite Cathedral Association Of Charleston, South Carolina 

When Shepheard’s Tavern was about to be torn down and in it’s place a C & S Bank was to be erected the Scottish Rite Masons place a sealed bid to buy the Rodger’s Mansion which was located on Wentworth Street. As a result of this sealed bid the Scottish Rite Cathedral Association became the proud owners of a four story, 13,881 square foot house which they planned to use as a Masonic and Scottish Rite meeting place. 

The Scottish Rite Cathedral Association paid $100,000.00 for it in 1920, which did not include the price of remodeling it.

 Only the best materials and craftsmanship went into the building of this home. Mr. Rodgers built and moved into his home in 1886 his intentions at the time was to have all of his children and grandchildren living in it together with him and his wife Elizabeth.

Francis Silas Rodgers was married in 1865 to Marie Elizabeth Cochran (1845-1916). Known as Elizabeth, she was from Anderson, South Carolina. They had thirteen children, five of whom died as infants or small children. Eight children lived to move into the family mansion at 149 Wentworth Street when it was completed in 1887: Francis Silas Rodgers, Jr. (1867-1924), Clarence Edgar Rodgers (1870-1938), Elizabeth Rodgers (1875-1963), Nellie Rodgers (1878-1960), Eugene Anthony Rodgers (1880-1955), Ella Rodgers (1881-1946), and Lida Rodgers (1882-1923). 

In the family room on the first floor is a large gas Chandler hanging from the ceiling? This Chandler has 6 posts to it. When the Scottish Rite masons moved into the house they purchased 6 Masonic globes that was placed on each post of the Chandler. The globes have a Square and Compass etched into each one.

When the “Wentworth Mansion,” was sold on May 31, 1940 two of these globes were donated to the Scottish Rite museum temple along with some photographs showing were they were used at. The Chandler is still hanging in what was then called the music room of the mansion. 

On August 03, 2001 Mr. Robert C. Seidler who is the Innkeeper at the “Wentworth Mansion” gave Ill. Brother Burbidge the 4 missing globes to the Chandler as a token of “Thanks” to the Masons of Charleston for all the good work they have done throughout the years.

The Mansion did not have a large enough room to have a reunion in. Sometime during 1922 an auditorium was erected south of the mansion which was connected with a corridor with a seating capacity of 600 persons along with a large organ. The mansion still stands today but the auditorium has been torn down.

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