Blackall partnership breathes new life into Masonic Lodge

To most people, Freemasonry is shrouded in mystery but part of its heritage is set to be revealed by an enterprise that until now has been western Queensland’s best kept secret.

The Lodge on Hawthorn, home to the region’s only tea room and antique shop, operates out of what was once Blackall’s Masonic Lodge and is about to add tours of its Temple Room to its attractions.

Owners Boyd Johnstone and Chris Kadel celebrated their first anniversary of offering the finer things in life with an evening of live music and Asian cuisine on Saturday night.

“This is exactly what I hoped for when we bought the Lodge,” Boyd said from a comfortable lounging chair, surrounded by delicate china and the work of local artisans, with the smell of coffee beans and a hearty breakfast wafting from the kitchen.

“I knew where I wanted to take it and I think we’ve shown we do things as well as our city cousins or even better.”

The pair purchased Blackall’s two-story heritage listed Masonic Temple when 129 years of Freemasonry came to an end in the town in 2016, and turned the bottom floor into a gallery space, coffee shop and antiques showcase all in one.

Now they’re ready to share the extensive collection of the building’s original furniture, which predates Queensland’s Grand Lodge in Brisbane, with tours that will run from Tuesday to Friday each week.

Located on the upper floor, the furniture was donated to the Lodge by AH Whittingham, a co-owner of Alice Downs and a Member of Queensland’s Legislative Council at the time of its abolition in 1922.

Also on display is regalia from a number of local families, including the Holmes family, who had three generations involved in the movement in Blackall.

“We’ve had great community support, from people who’ve not known what to do with regalia that belonged to a grandfather for instance,” Boyd explained.

He’s compiled a comprehensive talking tour of Freemasonry and its place in the history of Blackall, which is 150 years old this year.

For instance, the Lodge was designed by Edwin Morton Hockings, the architect responsible for the look of Rockhampton’s City Hall and the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School.

Hockings was a student of the architect of colonial Brisbane, Richard Gailey, who was known for designing the Brisbane Girls Grammar School, the Regatta Hotel and the Jubilee Hotel, among many others.

Speaking on Saturday night after a rousing Happy Birthday rendition by around 40 patrons, Boyd said he wouldn’t have been able to breathe new life into the Lodge without family and friends.

Supported well by tourists and locals alike in its first year, Boyd said they were happy they could bring a part of Blackall’s history back to the community.

The story Lodging its first anniversary first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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