The following notes are intended to introduce the history of The Golden Gate Lodge and its Members whom have been present for more than 150 years here in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It is quite impossible to touch on the history of the Lodge without touching on the history of Chagrin Falls; their progress has been inseparable. Today, as one approaches the village on wide concrete pavements, we can only wonder at the case of approach as compared with that of the men who first pushed through the forest with rifles and axes to establish the community. Wisely, these pioneers selected a site for their settlement adjacent to that of natural water power.
The first resident of this section was Serenus Burnett, who located in the woods two miles north of the present village, in 1815. In the period of the next ten years, or until 1825, there were only three other families that located near the Burnett farm. There were no settlers within the village until 1826. A year later, in 1827, John Woodward and Benjamin Carpenter built a dam below the Falls. They also constructed a log grist mill. General Edward Paine, the founder of Painesville, undertook to build a bridge over the falls about this time, but for some reason did not complete the job. In 1831, Rev. Adamson Bentley bought a considerable acreage of land at the junction of the two branches of the Chagrin River. Here he built a saw mill and a grist mill. Later he established a carding machine and a cloth dressing plant. His settlement was known as Bentleyville and for 20 years was superior to Chagrin Falls in population and enterprise.
The real pioneer of Chagrin Falls was Noah Graves, who purchased from General Paine 210 acres of land at a price which seemed enormous at the time, $2000.00. In partnership with Dr. S.S. Henderson, they proceeded to lay out the town and sell lots. The first houses were built in 1834. The Henry Church family moved here the same year. The first paper mill was established by Noah Graves in 1841. In 1844, a line of stages began operating between Cleveland and Warren by way of Chagrin Falls and this was the sole conveyance between the village and the outside world for many years. Chagrin Falls was incorporated a village in 1844. During this period the pioneer thought nothing of riding twenty to twenty five miles to meet with congenial friends whom he knew were gathered about a Masonic Altar in some neighboring hamlet and later to carry the light of Masonry to their own community.
A petition for a dispensation was signed by the following Brethren: Caleb Earl, Orrison Cathan, Johnathan Cole, Appolas Hewitt, Roderick White, Nathan Hobart, Stephen Kellog, Samuel Sunderland, Thomas White, Lorenzo Mix, and Henry Burnett. On Dec. 3, 1853, the dispensation was granted by M. W. Brother Lucius V. Bierce, Grand Master of Masons of Ohio. The Lodge was sponsored by Cleveland City Lodge No 15, F & A. M., the pioneer Lodge of Cuyahoga County Masonic bodies. Golden Gate Lodge is the fourth oldest Lodge in the County, being preceded only by Cleveland City, Iris, and Bigelow.
Upon receipt of the dispensation from the Grand Master, a meeting place was secured “up under the roof” of a wooden building at the north end of Main Street bridge. The room, low in ceiling, rough-plastered, hardly larger than the present anteroom, was where the Lodge was born. In this humble room, during the period that they worked under the dispensation, they increased the membership to 21 members.
Upon receiving the charter on October 19, 1854, better quarters were obtained in the second story of the building (still standing) on the southeast corner of Main and Orange Streets. This room was shared with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Early in 1856, it was decided to build a hall for the exclusive use of the Lodge. Hence, the two upper stories of the building that now houses the Chagrin Hardware Company were built and consecrated to Masonry in 1857. The dedication ceremony was on Jan. 14, 1857. Part of the program took place at the Church which stood at that time on Orange Street, after which they retired to the Champion Hall, now known as the Township Hall. Webb Chapter and Oriental Commandery of Cleveland participated in the ceremonies.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, a few enthusiastic members proposed the building of a Temple large enough to accommodate the anticipated growth of Masonry in the community. The project was set aside until the war ended, and in 1919 was re-activated by incorporating the Golden Gate Masonic Temple Association Company for $75,000 for the purpose of building a new Temple.
The new Golden Gate Masonic Temple on the corner of Franklin Street and Pearl Street (now West Washington Street) was consecrated and dedicated on June 4, 1924. A special meeting was held at the old Lodge room, after which Grand Lodge officers were escorted along Main and Franklin Streets to the new Temple. About 500 Masons attended the ceremonies, including most of Golden Gate’s 302 members. The ceremony of dedication was performed by Right Worshipful Brother James B. Ruhl, Deputy Grand Master.
The roomy, three-story Temple had income-producing stores on the first floor and a dining room, kitchen, and pool/billiard room on the second. The spacious Lodge room on the third floor is still one of the largest in the district.
Golden Gate managed to survive serious financial problems during the depression years of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. After World War II, with the return of more prosperous times, membership continued to grow rapidly until it reached a peak of 523 in 1957.
On October 20, 1954, Golden Gate observed its 100th anniversary. The centennial celebration was highlighted by ceremonies conducted by the Grand Lodge of Ohio.
An elevator was installed in 1970 for the convenience of older and less robust members, who would no longer have to walk up 48 steps to reach the third-floor Lodge room. Plus another 16 if they wanted to sit in the balcony overlooking the Lodge room. This welcome addition was made possible by the generosity of Brother Carlyle S. Harris and his sister, Madeline Harris Wait, who donated the entire cost of the Elevator and its installation.
As the Temple grew older, its kitchen facilities became antiquated and difficult to maintain. So, in 1975, through the combined fund raising efforts of the Temple Association and the Masonic bodies which met in the Temple, especially Golden Rule Chapter of Eastern Stars, the kitchen was completely remodeled and refurbished.
Over the years, Golden Gate has participated in laying cornerstones of many buildings in the Chagrin Falls area, including:
- East Washington Street High School, 1914
- South Kinsman Road Church (Orange), 1915
- Golden Gate Masonic Temple, 1923
- Federated Church Annex, 1928
- St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 1957
The Grand Lodge of Ohio honored two of the members by appointing them District Deputy Grand Masters; Worshipful Brother LaVern P. Bowers, who served from 1946 through 1948 and Worshipful Brother M. Neal Wheatcraft who served from 1987 through 1989.
Another distinguished member was William K. Ricksecker, who was raised in Golden Gate in 1856. After his death, his Masonic proficiency was recognized by Brethren in Aurora, who named their new Lodge W. K. Ricksecker No. 606 in his honor in 1910.
Golden Gate sponsored a group of Brethren living in Lyndhurst. They organized a Lodge in 1949, were chartered in 1950, and met in Golden Gate Masonic Temple until moving to the new Masonic Temple in Lyndhurst in 1960. The name of the Lodge? James B. Ruhl No. 731- the same James B. Ruhl who dedicated Golden Gate Masonic Temple in 1924.
Another Lodge with close ties to Golden Gate is Solon No. 757, which was sponsored by The Golden Gate Lodge in 1957. Several Brethren from Golden Gate were among the original charter members of Solon Lodge.
Masonry casts a strong light over the village of Chagrin Falls. Members of Golden Gate have served as mayor, postmaster, police chief, and council president. Educators, clergymen, attorneys, and many other professional and business leaders in the community also are members of the Fraternity.