It’s one the oldest buildings in Hamilton known for its graceful turrets and the century-old trees that surround it. Inside, the dark wood paneling, majestic 50-foot ceilings, exquisite stained glass windows and elegant chandeliers give it an old world charm. The large property on Queen and King Streets has a special place in Hamilton’s history. It’s owned by the Scottish Rite Club of Hamilton but had several owners before they took over. The property was first purchased in 1816 by James Mills to build a family home. In 1884 it was sold to George Tuckett, who owned The Tuckett Tobacco Company, one of the largest tobacco companies in Canada, who constructed the building that stands today.
The property was sold to the Scottish Rite in 1920 and the cathedral and rotunda were built in 1922. It holds the title of being the largest Masonic Cathedral in Canada. For all of its rich history, however, it is also one of the mostmysterious buildings in Hamilton. That’s mostly because so many people aren’t clear on what the Scottish Rite Freemason Society actually do, says general manager Jeff Boyle, who joined the Hamilton Masonry 15 years ago. Boyle understands the misconceptions about the society and says part of that is a result of them doing things in a quieter way.The Scottish Rite, he says, seeks to ‘develop in their members virtues and character which encourage men to improve their faculties for the good of the human race.’
“The easiest way to describe it is that it’s a fraternal and very much a charitable organization,” says Boyle. “The biggest misconception is that it’s a secret organization, that we work in the dark and that we are very mysterious, but there’s nothing we do that you can’t find out about. While we give to the community, we like to do it with little fanfare. We’ll support local causes but we’re not standing there with the cheque getting our pictures (taken for publicity). We’ll quietly send a donation.”
The history of Freemasonry in Canada dates back to the late 1700’s with the first lodges being warranted in 1792. The Scottish Rite in Canada was officially formed in 1847 and today there are approximately 14,000 Scottish Rite Freemasons in 45 Valleys across Canada. The primary function of the building is still to accommodate members of the Scottish Rite, who come for private lunches and meetings. But it’s also a multi-functional facility where corporations can hold their events and community groups, like the Women’s Canadian Cub of Hamilton, hold their monthly meetings. It’s also one of the most popular spots in the city for weddings because of the large seating capacity of more than 500 people. Then there’s the amazing decor. The building has more than 55 antique, hand painted backdrops, a regal one hundred foot long aisle and a pipe organ that has more than 3,000 pipes.
“The organ has been in the building since it was built and the whole building shakes when it’s cranked up,” notes Boyle. Of course, a building so old certainly has stories about ghosts that haunt the halls. Indeed, there are stories of sightings in the ‘dungeons’ and a haunted room that seemingly everyone avoids. If you would like to learn and experience more on this score, you can join Hamilton Ghost Walks on one of their frequent tours inside the mansion.
Mostly, the building is filled with members working on ways to give back. Their current project involves the building of a free after-school tutoring program for children with dyslexia. The Hamilton Learning Centre for Children, as it will be called, will be located in the century-old home at the back of their property. It’s been something the Club has been championing for about two years, now coming to fruition.
Scottish Rite Club
Ghost Walks Hamilton