Ever wondered what the Freemasons’ secret handshake is or why they wear aprons?
It’s that mystique that is expected to attract big visitor numbers when the Neil Street Masonic Centre throws open its doors for the inaugural Toowoomba Open House. The Masonic Centre will be one of 17 historic buildings taking part in the city’s first Open House event on Sunday, October 6.
Built in 1886, the Neil Street Masonic Centre is one of Toowoomba’s most significant heritage sites and older than the well-known adjoining Empire Theatre, which was constructed in 1911. The Neil Street Masonic Centre was built by James Renwick on a one-acre site in the centre of town, which was reportedly purchased for $900.
Local Freemason Roger Turnbull said the Southern Cross Lodge was looking forward to sharing the colourful history of its headquarters. “We’ve had a few information nights here before, but this is the first time we’ve opened the whole building to the general public for a full day,” he said.
“When people come inside the Neil Street Masonic Centre they are often quite surprised by the building’s historic features.
“Visitors will be able to walk through the main lodge room with its impressive curved ceiling, organ loft, and Grand Master’s chair. The downstairs hall and supper room will also be open.” The public will have the opportunity to meet local Freemasons and Grand Lodge officers, as well as ask any questions they may have about Freemasonry.
“There’s still quite a bit of mystique surrounding our organisation, but Freemasonry has moved with the times and is now more open about its activities,” Mr Turnbull said. “Freemasonry welcomes men from all walks of life and the average age of new members in Queensland is 38.
“Our core values are mateship, caring and integrity and our main aim is to help good men live better lives.”
During the Second World War, the lower floor of the building was occupied by the Australian army from 1943 until 1945. Today the centre is home to four local Lodges and the building is one of Toowoomba’s most significant heritage sites.
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