End of an Era: Central Lake Masonic Lodge merges with Bellaire

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo by Linda Gallagher

Central Lake Masonic Building Association President Al Burnett is shown outside the front door of the Central Lake Masonic Lodge's stately old building on Main Street, which will most likely be sold after the doors of the lodge close soon for the last time. The lodge was officially merged with the Bellaire Masonic Lodge on Oct. 1. 


CENTRAL LAKE – It's a challenging problem that most, if not all, charitable and civic nonprofit organizations are currently experiencing – less and less new blood coming in as older members and volunteers step back.

In fact, the lack of people willing to join organizations such as the Masons, Lions, VFW, and Rotary – and lower rate of committed volunteerism in general – has resulted in the closing of many civic organizations over the last few years. Antrim County has been no exception, suffering the loss of at least two Masonic lodges in the last 10 years, several community organizations, and most recently, the Bellaire Lions Club, which shut down earlier this year.

Sadly, on Oct. 1 Central Lake's Masonic Lodge 426 joined the ranks of inactive community organizations, voting to close and merge with the Bellaire lodge.

Central Lake Masonic Building Association President Al Burnett, a longtime member of the lodge and one of its most active members, cited declining membership for its demise. The Central Lake Masons have always been active, sponsoring three public pancake breakfasts a year along with a popular and profitable Mother's Day flower sale, as well as other events, all of which funded two high school scholarships awarded annually to deserving Central Lake High School graduates.

Known traditionally as a men's fraternal organization, Freemasonry traces its origins back to the Middle Ages in Europe and came to America with the first settlers at Jamestown. Since then, the organization has grown to encompass most of the free world, with lodges in most small American towns. Like most of the country's civic organizations, Masonry has declined in membership throughout the U.S. for the last 30 years.

"As of Oct. 1, we had a total of 34 members in Central Lake, but only seven of those were still active," Burnett said. "The rest have all either moved into nursing homes or somewhere else closer to family.

"Younger people just don't want to join anything anymore," Burnett continued. "They're too busy with their work and families, I guess. But we just can't do it anymore with only the few active folks we've got."

The closing of the lodge meant the end of more than 100 years of Freemasonry in Central Lake, which was first formed in 1902 with William Burns as president, or "Worshipful Master," according to Burnett, who served six terms as the lodge's leader.

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