New Chapel Honors Order of the Eastern Star's History of Giving at Minnesota Masonic Home

New Chapel Honors Order of the Eastern Star’s History of Giving at Minnesota Masonic Home

February 6, 2019 Drawing of the new chapel

More than 60 years ago, Minnesota’s Order of the Eastern Star (OES) Matrons realized a long-held dream. In 1957, they watched as dignitaries broke ground on the OES Memorial Chapel at Minnesota Masonic Home. In 2020 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Home. At the same time, we will dedicate a new OES Chapel (artist drawing above). For context, below is a bit of history related to our Chapel.

Order of the Eastern Star as Partner

From the early 1900s, when the Grand Lodge of Minnesota first thought to create the Minnesota Masonic Home, OES members helped further the plan. In October 1906, they contributed a third of the treasury funds available when Minnesota Masonic Home Corporation began.

In the 1920s, when construction commenced on the Guest Lodge Building (now assisted living and Dan Patch Hall), OES was there again. The OES House Committee met at the Masonic Temple in early 1927, to determine how to furnish the new building. For $90,000, they furnished the rooms, and supplied kitchen and laundry equipment as well as lighting fixtures.

A few years later, after trustees voted to re-open the original Home (Marion Willis Savage‘s former residence), OES stepped up again to refresh the space. By the end of 1930, 17 residents called the renamed Ives Lodge home.

Plans for a Chapel

Sister Jane Topel
Sister Jane Topel

On New Year’s Eve 1934, MMH’s Building Committee met with OES’s House Committee to discuss plans to erect a house of worship. OES pledged to fund the project—both the building and its furnishings. Sister Jane Topel, Worthy Grand Matron at the time, was the visionary behind the chapel and had championed its cause at the Grand Chapter Session in May.

Over the next few years, however, the Building Committee’s focus shifted to building an infirmary, dedicated in 1940. World War II came soon after, bringing with it labor and nursing shortages, and the Board mentioned the chapel only in passing during 1947.

In 1953, the Board suggested that the chapel be built in conjunction with a dormitory of single rooms. Two years later, OES established the Masonic Home Chapel Fund with contributions they had collected since 1934. By early 1956 an architect had drawn up plans for the new building. The estimated cost: just under $80,000.

L to R: John B. Tomhave (Past Grand Master), Grace Aker (Grand Matron) and George R. Wilson (Grand Master) at the cornerstone laying ceremony in November 1957.
L to R: John B. Tomhave (Past Grand Master), Grace Aker (Worthy Grand Matron) and George R. Wilson (Grand Master) at the cornerstone laying ceremony in November 1957.

On June 9, 1957 Mrs. Grace Aker, Worthy Grand Matron, and Mr. A.T. Whaley, Worthy Grand Patron, presided over the ground-breaking ceremony at the Order of the Eastern Star Memorial Chapel. Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. officers ceremoniously laid the cornerstone in November and Grand Chapter OES Officers held a dedication service on Wednesday, May 14, 1958. Residents had attended the inaugural service at the OES Chapel the Sunday before.

Next Steps

“For more than 60 years,” notes Eric Neetenbeek, President and CEO of Minnesota Masonic Charities, “the Order of Eastern Star Chapel has been a place of joy, sadness, recollection and remembrances. The passage of time and the effects of the elements have taken their toll on the building and now is the time to replace it with a new building constructed using modern techniques and materials.”

Cunningham Group Architecture has drawn up plans for the new chapel. The new design includes added amenities such as an outdoor English garden and courtyard, additional parking, a preparatory room and restrooms. Workers will also preserve the windows from the 1958 chapel for use in the new chapel.

Demolition of the existing chapel is scheduled for July 2019. Adolfson & Peterson Construction, which won an Award for its 2015-2016 construction of the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center, will construct the new chapel during the second half of 2019. The projected completion date is slated for December 2019.

Note: As of June 19, 2019, MMH delayed the start of the project.

To learn more about the history of our Minnesota Masonic Home, visit MnMasonicHome.org.

New Chapel Honors Order of the Eastern Star’s History of Giving at Minnesota Masonic Home

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