Opening Knight: Pythian Cornerstone Is Laid

On December 5, 1901 the cornerstone of the new Knights of Pythias lodge hall was laid at Main and 3rd streets.

The new hall, a replacement of the hall built in 1881, would cost $17,000 ($468,000 today).

This is the first lodge hall, which stood at the same location. When this photo was taken, the ground floor housed the Texas & Pacific freight  office. In the corner niche on the third floor a suit of armor—nicknamed “St. George”—can be seen  At some point in time St. George lost his right “hand” to gunfire, possibly administered by rowdy cowboys.

The current St. George is a replica that was made when the second lodge hall building was restored in 1981.

pythias-1885This 1885 map shows the 1881 lodge hall east of the 1883 opera house. The lodge hall housed a grocery store on the ground floor, “sleeping rooms” on the second, and the Pythias lodge on the third. It was common practice for lodges to rent the lower floors of their building for income.

The cornerstone boasts that the 1881 building was the first Pythian temple ever built.

knights 6-9-81 dwhBut the Dallas Weekly Herald on June 9, 1881 clarified that: The Fort Worth temple was the first Pythian temple built in Texas. The cornerstone for that first building was laid on June 7. Note that the reception was held at the El Paso Hotel.

In 1899 the two local Knights of Pythias lodges (Queen City and Red Cross) had announced plans to replace the 1881 building. The projected cost: $12,000 ($330,000 today).

This is the 1901 sketch of the second building by architects Sanguinet and Staats. The new building added a turret and gabled roof.

pythias cornerstone sanguinetSanguinet’s name appears on the cornerstone. The masonry contractor was William Bryce.

The new lodge building opened on May 19, 1902. The early twentieth century was the heyday of fraternal lodges in America. One scholar estimated that “every fifth man belonged to at least one of the nation’s seventy thousand fraternal lodges.” Fort Worth had many fraternal lodges, most now defunct.

The Knights of Pythias fraternal organization had been founded in Washington, D.C. in 1864. Pythias was a figure in Greek legend who exemplified friendship.

In the 1970s Haltom’s jewelry store moved into the building from the old Fort Worth Club Building.

Some more views of the Knights of Pythias lodge hall:

window pythiaspythias column ionicwindow pythias2glass pythiasglass pythias gables

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2 Responses to Opening Knight: Pythian Cornerstone Is Laid

  1. Steve A says:

    How can they make that claim when the K of P Building in Virginia City was built in 1876 and still stands? Perhaps there is some difference between a building, a castle, and a temple that escapes me.

    • hometown says:

      I wondered about that, which is why I attributed the claim. Because so many lodges rented space in their halls–retail, etc.–I wondered if this one was built with no such intention (although I know the replacement hall was used by outsiders, including non-Pythian lodges). Or, as you say, the key may lie in the word “temple.”

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