- Associated Press - Friday, May 26, 2017

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (AP) - The symbolism is rich and plentiful inside the wood-paneled rooms of the Naperville Masonic Temple.

There’s the all-seeing eye of God, painted into a mural at the center of the ceiling, along with three angels representing faith, hope and charity, all climbing Jacob’s ladder toward the heavens.

There’s a library filled with more than 1,500 books on the fraternity of freemasonry and its pursuit of perfection among men.

There are aprons for members, called master masons, to wear during meetings and a plain “preparation room” with nothing on the walls but an invocation to a higher power.

As the home of a 169-year-old fraternity called Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the temple should be a place filled with signs and emblems, images of meaning for men as they strive along the path from good to better, master masons say.

“This is like an oasis away from the rest of the world,” said Tim Ory, a master mason and secretary/historian for the lodge. “People from all walks of life come to work on being better people.”

The masons’ oasis is hitting a milestone this year as the building at 34 W. Jefferson Ave. turns 100 years old. The group marked the moment on May 1, when master masons placed a new time capsule into the cornerstone to replace a 1916 capsule installed when construction began.

“We are in charge of quite a historical monument,” said Don Cowart, a master mason and vice president of the Naperville Masonic Temple Association, an umbrella organization that maintains the space where four groups of masons meet. “It is something that we take seriously to maintain and improve.”

The latest round of improvements began in 2010 and continues this year with work to install new paneling in the temple. The project gives the masons another reason to look back with pride on the stories that gave the group a prominent presence among the leaders and decision-makers of Naperville.

Ory has been researching such stories for the past 24 years, since he grew curious about the names and faces posted on the walls. The images depict past leaders, called worshipful masters for the lodge and high priests for the Euclid Chapter 13 Royal Arch Masons, another masonic organization that calls the century-old temple home.

Some of the names were familiar to a construction electrician from a family like the Orys, who have lived in Naperville for generations.

Take Joseph Naper, for instance. As town founder, Naper came to the area in 1831 and began building a village. Naper became the lodge’s third worshipful master, after founding master Aylmer Keith and David Hess.

But not all of the names were so recognizable, so Ory searched newspaper archives at the library, photo archives at the Naper Settlement historical museum and records on ancestry.com. Not a day passes when Ory doesn’t delve further into the heritage of the masons in his hometown.

“I found that the history of the lodge and the history of the city are intertwined,” Ory said. “It became an obsession for me.”

Ory can run down the names of the lodge’s past worshipful masters, reciting which were farmers and which were doctors, which were village presidents or mayors — there have been 22 over the years — and which are still members today.

Indeed Ory’s knowledge of masons in Naperville is proving helpful for the Naper Settlement, as he is updating the museum’s photo collection and entering identifications for people and places into a computer system.

“Because he’s done so much work on the masons here in Naperville, he knows so many of the family connections and is able to help identify these people,” said Bryan Ogg, curator of research.

While the masonic fraternity might seem shrouded in secrecy, Ory said the group opens its building at least once a year during its public installation of officers each November. Visitors can step above Naperville Running Company and into the royal blue carpeting and sky blue walls of the temple. They can watch new leaders take an oath and see younger ones rise from the lower ranks of entered apprentice or fellow craft to master mason.

Ory said masons can be from any race or religion but must profess a belief in a higher power. They can come from any profession but must refrain from discussing politics or religion while inside the temple. They aim, through learning, to improve themselves and their communities.

“We are in no rush. We look at freemasonry as a lifelong pursuit,” Ory said. “Freemasonry is about character building. Trying to become a better person. That’s why we use the emblems and tools of architecture and geometry to symbolize building a temple within.”


Source: The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/2p6v4iN


Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.dailyherald.com

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