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CHINESE FREE MASONS BUILDING

Lethbridge

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Chinese Free Masons Building is a two-storey brick and wood frame structure, occupying one half of one city lot on 2nd Avenue South in the historic Old Chinatown district of Lethbridge.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Chinese Free Masons Building lies in its role as a social and cultural centre for Lethbridge's Chinese community. Built in 1924, through Canada-wide donations, the building served as a meeting place for the Lethbridge branch of the Chinese Free Masons, founded in 1922.

The Chinese community has a long history in southern Alberta, dating primarily to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. (Indeed, this site was previously occupied by a wooden frame dwelling used by Chinese "sojourners" between 1913 and 1918). The Chinese Free Masons were originally affiliated with the Chee Kung Ton society, dedicated to overthrowing the ruling Qing Dynasty in China and the oldest Chinese association in Canada (dating to 1862). The Free Masons, however, became more concerned with issues typical of voluntary fraternal organizations, such as welfare assistance and education. The second floor of the building was used for secret meetings of the Masons as well for a Chinese language school for the children of members. An inner lodge of privileged members, the Dart Coon Club, met secretly in the basement during its early years; new immigrants were sometimes temporarily housed here as well. In addition, the building was the site of several Masonic conventions.

Together with the Chinese National League Building located across the street, the Chinese Free Masons Building represents a direct historical link with the development of Lethbridge's China Town, when City Bylaws required that Chinese-owned buildings be situated in a segregated area. The ornate facade of the Chinese Free Masons Building contrasts greatly with the austerity of the frontier facade of the Chinese National Building, a physical manifestation of the political and ideological differences between the two most important societies in the city's Chinese community between 1905 and 1925.

The Free Masons Building is the most distinctive building on an important historic block that speaks to the presence of a long lasting cultural community and the multicultural history of southern Alberta.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1270)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Chinese Free Masons Building include:

Exterior
- form (rectangular), scale and massing;
- flat roof with palisade-type roofline.

South Elevation
- south elevation sunken rear lot landscape;
- brick masonry detailing, double-hung window details, sills and lintels;
- rear wood fire-escape;

West Elevation
- brick masonry detailing, double-hung window details, sills and lintels.

Front (North) Elevation
- the brick masonry elements and the two large display windows dividing the central main floor;
- small side door access to the second floor with brick arch containing hand painted Masonic symbols;
- recessed second floor balcony with arched brick openings and large divided window, flanked by arched window openings on either side;
- hand painted Chinese character signage above the balcony and on the sign band;
- Chinese Free Masons sign on the sign band over the balcony arch.

- flag poles.


Interior
Original remaining elements and fittings of the interior of the Chinese Free Masons building such as:
- pressed metal ceiling on the main level;
- fir flooring main and second floor;
- lath and plaster walls and ceiling (second floor);
- interior fittings such as baseboards, door and window trim, wall mounted light fixtures(second floor);
- furnishings such as the oak podium (second floor).


Location



Street Address: 310 - 2 Avenue South
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Plan 4353 S, Block 19, Lot 5
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
21
8
31
13 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
4353 S
19
5


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.696395 -112.842842 Secondary Source NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
5506506 367103 Digital Maps NAD 83

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1987/08/28

Historical Information

Built: 1924/01/01 To 1924/01/01
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Building Social and Community Life : Community Organizations
Peopling the Land : Migration and Immigration
Historic Function(s): Community : Civic Space
Community : Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

The Chinese Free Masons Building forms an integral part of Chinatown history in Lethbridge. Also known as the Chi Kong Tong, the Freemasons were formed in 1922 and in 1924 they raised funds through Canada-wide donations and constructed the building. The second floor was used for both the secret meetings of the Masons as well for special schoolroom for children of members. The Dart Coon Club, a special inner lodge for privileged members, met secretly in the basement in the early years. The lodge and its members formed one of the two most important societies in Lethbridge Chinatown, the other being the Chinese National League located across the street. Together they formed the political and ideological polarities that characterized the Chinese community between 1905 and 1925. The Chinese Free Masons Building is the most unique structures remaining in Lethbridge Chinatown.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0486
Designation File: Des. 1270
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 27183
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1270)
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