A fire Saturday destroyed the historic hall of the Keystone Lodge No. 161, Free and Accepted Masons in Milton.
Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief Jason Robitaille reported that firefighters were dispatched to the structure on the corner of Milton Road and Flint Street at 8:41 a.m., and the fire was contained at 11:45 a.m. No one was in the building at the time of the fire, and no injuries were reported. Fire officials have not yet determined what caused the fire, Robitaille said.
Dennis Huberty, a member of the Keystone Lodge since 1997, said that the building was insured and that lodge members are waiting to hear back from their insurance company before deciding whether to rebuild. Huberty said that in the meantime, other lodges in Calaveras County have reached out to them offering the use of their building.
“It’s a tragedy,” Huberty said, adding that “154 years of history is gone.”
The Keystone Lodge was instituted in Copperopolis on Dec. 19, 1862. In 1881 it was moved to its present location in Milton at the terminal of the Stockton and Copperopolis Railroad.
The Keystone Lodge was home to many irreplaceable artifacts, and was often the target of vandalism and theft, lodge members said. The most frequently stolen item was the Freemason sword used by the Masonic tyler when reciting the tyler’s oath. The most recent sword, made by B. Pasqual of San Francisco, was engraved with Christian symbolism and depictions of the Knights Templar.
Huberty said that if the lodge members decide to rebuild the building, they will do so in the Milton area.
“If we’re going to rebuild, it will be made in Milton,” Huberty said.