After 87 years in their current lodge building, members of the Tulare Masons of Zenith Lodge #202 A.F. &A.M. were recently faced with some difficult decisions. “Our Lodge has experienced some issues with mold in the building so we had to sit down and really take a look at the situation,” said Randy Buchholz. “We needed to decide if the membership wanted to join another lodge, close the lodge, try to undertake the extensive work it would require to repair the Lodge, or continue meeting and find another place to meet.” The general consensus was the membership wanted to attempt to find another place and continue to meet. With that in mind, as well as their number one goal of doing what was best to respect the past generations of Masons who had formed the lodge and what they did for the community, the membership continued meeting and forming a working plan.
When they discovered that Warren and Caroline Lewis wanted to sell the cafe in Tulare, a plan was formed that is hoped to provide the best of all possible outcomes for everyone involved. The Masons would buy the Cafe, remodel the back room for their Lodge meeting room and find someone to run the Cafe so that Tulare would still have that business. In the meantime, the old Lodge would be taken down and that property turned over to the City of Tulare for a park. Said Buchholz, “It really is a perfect place for the city to create a park.”
With the decision made it was time to begin fundraising the endeavor. In just nine days from the start of fundraising the committee had over the amount of money they had set as their goal. “We contacted a variety of people and within nine days we had raised the funds to purchase the Cafe and complete the remodeling,” said Buchholz. “It was really amazing and shows the commitment the people of Tulare have to their community and it’s history. Many of the donations were made In Memorium of family members.”
Recent meetings have had the Members of the Lodge looking at the updating, remodeling, and painting they would like to do. A committee formed June 18, 2012 has been assigned to go over the plan and develop a business plan for the Cafe based on previous business records. Much of the work will be done by the Lodge Members themselves who will utilize the vast array of knowledge and experience they individually possess.
“We want to make sure we honor our valuable history,” said Buchholz. “Items of historical value in the current Lodge building will be saved and incorporated into the new Lodge meeting room.”
Here now is a history of the Zenith Lodge #202 A.F. &A.M of Tulare taken from the a history compiled and written by Roy Dulany of Tulare. It appeared in the 1983 centennial book “Our Heritage - Tulare Community History 1883-1983.
In the summer of 1921 records show that the number of Masons in the Tulare area numbered about 40. It was apparent to them that they were not receiving the full benefit of regular Lodge attendance due to the fact that they were mostly members of the Redfield Lodge and that necessitated traveling 10 miles during bad weather and uncertain road conditions to attend meetings.
They decided to undertake the task of establishing a lodge. At a meeting held in the State Bank of Tulare on May 28, 1921a decision was made to apply to the Grand Master to establish a Lodge in Tulare. Financial support of $150 was pledged at that time.
The name Zenith Lodge was selected at a meeting held November 20, 1921 when the petition to become a lodge was recommended by Redfield Lodge #34 A.F. & A.M. Officers of the Lodge were conferred the Entered Apprentice Degree with J. M. Risbeck as Worshipful Master, C. C. Coffey as Senior Deacon and R. H. Lawson as Junior Steward.
On December 13, 1921 the day following the recommendation by the Redfield Lodge, The Custodian of the Grand Lodge, Brother Dawley, approved their quarters and recommended that the Grand Master grant them a Dispensation. The petition was granted by the Grand Master, W.F. R. Whorton on December 19, 1921.
The Lodge’s original quarters were selected by a committee that was able to obtain a lease on the second floor of a building belonging to N. W. Walker. The lower floor of the building was a used as a general store and when the top floor was remodeled, it yielded a room 13’ x 33’. The lodge continued to meet there until July 13, 1925 when their membership numbered 65.
The first communication under the charter was August 25, 1922. Two major areas of business were decided at this meeting. One was to appoint a committee to select a site for the construction of a future Masonic Temple. This committee consisted of C. C. Coffey, Conrad Borsting, and Bob Kambel. The second order of business was to adopt the by-laws and grant the Order of the Eastern Star, Oasis Chapter #148 to use the Lodge Rooms.
A fund drive was held to raise money for the construction of the Masonic Temple and resulted in $4,450 being raised. The building committee considered four sites before settling on the present site which was purchased from August Marzahn for $600.
A committee comprised of Walter Sawin, C. C. Coffey, Fritz Miller, Ernest Gellhaus and Ben Marzahn presented plans for the present building with the estimated cost of construction $6,580. Work on excavation for the building began in April of 1925 and farmers came from all over with teams and scrapers to dig the basement.
The building was completed in July 1925 and the first meeting was held on August 10 when Vince Laverty of Hitchcock received his Master Mason Degree and became the first in the new Temple. The final cost of the building was $8,850.03 and it was constructed almost entirely of donated help.
The Temple was dedicated on May 26, 1926 when the Grand Lodge officers convened in Tulare with all of the Grand Officers present except for the Chaplain and Tyler which were filled by Tulare Masons Bill Harrison and John Dulany. After the dedication the Boy Scout Troop sponsored by the Lodge presented the Lodge with a flag pole which they had erected and a U. S. Flag. The presentation was made by Ed Marzahn, Chairman of the Scout Troop Committee.
Currently the Tulare Zenith Lodge #202 A.F. & A.M. has 57 members. The Eastern Star Oasis Chapter #148 of Tulare continues to meet as well and has a membership on the books of 77. The Star Chapter in Wessington joined them a couple of years ago adding to that membership number.