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SEALED IN SYMBOLISM MASONS LAY STONE FOR NEW LODGE.

Byline: Cecilia Chan Staff Writer

TARZANA - One of the oldest fraternities in the world, which some say traces its roots to the times of King Solomon, has a new center.

The Hollywood-West Valley Masonic Lodge No. 355 held a public cornerstone ceremony Sunday at its 28,000-square-foot building on Ventura Boulevard.

More than 200 years ago President George Washington, who was a Mason, performed the symbolic leveling of the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building.

``I'm very excited,'' said Ted Schuman, a past master. ``The place will be here for many decades.''

The 800-member fraternal lodge, which contributes to the community with such things as scholarships and free child identification programs, was renting space in Van Nuys for the last dozen years.

The Masons sold their Hollywood building across the street from the Chinese Theatre in 1980 because of declining membership.

Wise investment of the money from the sale enabled the lodge to buy and remodel their new building for nearly $4 million, Schuman said.

The building was remodeled in two phases, the last phase completed two months ago.

Before the elaborate ceremony, representatives of Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Woodland Hills, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich presented proclamations recognizing the new building.

Sherman's office also presented a U.S. flag that flew over the nation's Capitol Building on July 4.

Sunday's ritual included a symbolic placing of a time capsule that contained items for future generations, including a history of the Hollywood and West Valley Masons before they merged, pictures of the building's construction and pictures of the lodge's activities beneath the cornerstone on a tripod.

The cornerstone includes the building's name, The Boulevard Masonic Center.

Both the capsule and cornerstone will be placed on the south side of the building at a later date. A cornerstone ceremony was held a couple of weeks earlier for a new lodge in Burbank.

``It's nice,'' North Hollywood resident Robert T. Gilmore Jr. said of the building after the ceremony. But ``the Hollywood lodge, I loved that in Hollywood.''

Gilmore, who'll be 93 years old in two weeks, is one of the lodge's oldest members. The retired Los Angeles police officer has been a Mason for a little more than 60 years.

There are about 5 million Masons worldwide, including 2 million in the United States. The Grand Lodge of California has nearly 90,000 members and about 400 member lodges.

The Freemasonry in California stresses brotherhood, community involvement and selmprovement through education, family values, moral standards and charity, according to its literature.

Notable Masons included John Wayne, Clark Gable, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sir Winston Churchill and Presidents Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

``I think it's fabulous,'' said John Champion, 60, who joined the Masons in 1966 to serve the community. ``Members of the public have the opportunity to see what Masonry is all about.''

The lodge is holding an informational meeting for the public about Masons at 6 p.m., Tuesday at its building on 19626 Ventura Blvd.

``It's wonderful, beautiful, great place to get together and see friends,'' said Rita Varsam, whose husband, Stephan, was a past master. ``I've had my best days here.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

David Decker, right, grand master of Masonic Lodge No. 355 leads Sunday's cornerstone ceremony at the Hollywood-West Valley chapter's Ventura Boulevard building in Tarzana.

Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 23, 2001
Words:557
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