|History of the building
On June 1, 1851, 35 Port Royal citizens agreed to subscribe 52 shares at $50
per share (a total of $2,700) for the construction of a new "Town Hall &
Lyceum" behind Lot 20 on King St. This brick two-storied structure
with cellar still stands, though now in dilapidated condition. All
original documents pertaining to the construction of the building are still
intact, and comprise the only full documentation of any structure in Port
Royal. "Harkness" was the architect, and Thomas D. Lumpkin of
Port Royal signed the contract as builder. The building committee for
the town was William Gray (before his death as first treasurer), Dr. John J.
Gravatt (2nd treasurer), Dr. Edmund P. White, Apollos Boutwell, and Dr.
Charles Urquhart. The land was sold to the committee for $75 by Mrs.
Elizabeth Gray, Isabella Gray, Evelina P. Gray, and Ann Lewis Gray.
William Gray had agreed to furnish part of his Lot 20 for the new building;
on January 12, 1852 gray was seriously injured by a fall from the portico of
the Powhatan House hotel in Richmond, and died eight days later, January 20,
1853. By December 9, 1854, the Town Hall & Lyceum was completed.
Many subscribers failed to meet their obligations to pay for their "shares,"
and the rooms were used in various ways to raise building costs. A
singing school, a "photographist," a magician, and George Fitzhugh's Academy
made use of the rooms; the Masonic Lodge rented the two rooms on the second
(from Hidden Village by Ralph E. Fall)
Masonic Lodge was formed here in 1754 and in the following year the "Lodge
at Port Royal" applied to Kilwinning Lodge in Scotland for a charter.
The request was framed by the Junior Warden, Brother John Crosse, and was
sent to his father, David, a member of "Mother" Kilwinning Lodge at
St. Kilwinning Abbey near Glasgow. By the time this request was
received the Grand Lodge of Scotland had assumed the responsibilities for
issuing charter, so Kilwinning Lodge passed the request on to them.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland honored this request and on December 1, 1755,
granted the Lodge at Port Royal a charter, with the rather cumbersome name
of "Kilwinning Port Royal Crosse Lodge." This was the first charter
granted by the Grand Lodge or Scotland to a Lodge in the American colonies.
The original 1775 charter has survived and is now in the possession of the
Grand Lodge of Virginia.
The Port Royal Lodge remained active throughout the Revolutionary War,
and its members played an important part during the 1777 and 1778 meetings
that led to the formation of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Brother
James Kemp, from Port Royal Kilwinning Crosse Lodge, acted as Secretary for
several of those meetings. When, in 1786, the newly-formed Grand Lodge
of Virginia assigned precedence to existing Lodges, Port Royal Kilwinning
Crosse Lodge was assigned the number 2, after the Norfolk Lodge, successor
to the Royal Exchanged Lodge of Norfolk, which had received a warrant from
the Grand Lodge of England in 1773 and a charter in 1741.
During its early years, the Lodge at Port Royal met in various taverns or
private residences in the town. For reasons unclear, the Lodge went
dark in 1848, but very shortly thereafter attempted to resume its labors,
and was granted a dispensation by the Grand Lodge. In 1852, the Lodge
reported that it was having difficulty finding an appropriate meeting place.
That year, however, the town of Port Royal decided to build a new Town Hall,
with a second story available for undetermined uses. There is no doubt
but that it was to be a Masonic meeting place. The only entrance to
the second story was via an outside stairway, towards the rear of the
building, which led to two small adjoining rooms which were adjacent to a
much larger rectangular room. Each small room had a single door
leading into the larger room, and were themselves connected by a single
A most interesting event occurred during the latter years of the Civil
War when Port Royal was occupied by Union troops. In 1864 the Lodge
room was broken into by a Yankee soldier, who stole the silver officers'
jewels, originally a gift to the Lodge from Brother David Crosse, a member
of Kilwinning Lodge in Scotland and the father of the John Crosse who wrote
the letter requesting the original charter. Bragging about the fine
silver items he found, he attracted the attention of Brother Emory Packard,
a Union soldier and member of Paul Revere Lodge in Brockton, Mass.
Brother Packard, recognizing the significance of the stolen jewels, first
attempted to cajole the thief into returning them, or giving them to Packard
for safekeeping. When this failed, he next offered to buy the items.
This was not easy, for as Packard stated, "there was little money in the
army." After some effort, he finally managed to beg and borrow enough
funds to purchase the items from the thief, and then had them shipped to his
Lodge in Massachusetts for safe keeping until the "current unpleasantness"
came to an end.
After the war the brothers of Paul Revere Lodge returned these historic
Masonic jewels to Port Royal and they are now in the possession of
Kilwinning Crosse Lodge No. 2-237, of Bowling Green, the successor to the
Lodge at Port Royal.
Restoration of the old Town Hall/Masonic Hall at Port Royal has
commenced, helped considerably by a $24,000 grant from the Commonwealth of
Virginia for that purpose. The first floor will become a visitor
center and the second story rooms, may, at the discretion of the Masonic
community, be restored as a Masonic meeting place, a Masonic Museum, or
both. Kilwinning Crosse Lodge No. 2-237 has been granted full
authority to deal with the content and use of the upstairs Lodge room.
While the grant from the Commonwealth has permitted work to start - the
structure is being reinforced and the roof is soon to be replaced, much more
effort, and funds, will be required before the Town Hall/Masonic Hall will
be usable. Those desiring to assist in this project are requested to
send fully tax-deductible donations to: Make check payable to Historic
Port Royal Inc., Right Worshipful Thomas Lewis, PO Box 236, Bowling Green,
VA 22427 Kilwinning Crosse No. 2-237.
(taken from article in The Virginia Masonic Herald 8/1999)
This impressive structure, in spite of its very poor
condition, is a fine example of the Greek Revival commercial/organizational
building. In the mid-19th century many such buildings which combined
various functions were constructed across the country. Although Port
Royal had declined greatly since the boom years of the 18th century, the
size of this building indicates that wealth was still held by some citizens.
The Kilwinning Port Royal Crosse Lodge, Number 2, is one
of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the country. Although it's original
charter (from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, dated 1 December, 1755) is
generally conceded to be the oldest in existence of any in the country, the
Port Royal Lodge ranks number two in Virginia, after that in Norfolk.
The Port Royal Lodge took a leading part in the
philanthropic, social and fraternal life of Port Royal, Caroline County, and
the adjacent areas of Virginia throughout the colonial period and into the