Damascus Lodge was created because of the success of LaFayette Lodge No. 265. In 1904, within ten years of its start, LaFayette Lodge had 415 members and 180 degrees waiting to be conferred. It was impossible to process all the petitions. To prevent the loss of candidates, 123 Masons sought permission to form a new lodge in Milwaukee, to be named “Damascus.”
The new lodge received its dispensation from Grand Master David Wright in November 1904 and its charter in June 1905. The lodge immediately prospered. Contrary to common Masonic practice in Wisconsin, Damascus Lodge No. 290 has never sought to build or buy its own building. Among its meeting places were the old Aberdeen Hotel at 909 Grand (West Wisconsin) Avenue, the Wisconsin Commandery Building on Jefferson Street, Cottrill Hall of the Ivanhoe Commandery Building, Kilbourne Masonic Temple and Excelsior Masonic Temple, Nathan Hale Masonic Temple, and currently resides at Lake Masonic Temple. Damascus Lodge has sometimes been called a “Gypsy Lodge” by its members, but one lodge secretary, Mark Lee, served from the charter date in 1905 until 1946.
In 1946, Damascus Lodge had its own concert band composed entirely of members who were professional musicians. Its concerts were augmented at intermissions by the Damascus Hotshots, a four-man ensemble consisting of clarinet, bull-fiddle, guitar and washboard, played by Walter Grebe, Robert Lorenz, William Lorenz and George Schwartz.
In 1951, several Damascus Lodge Masons started a new lodge in the southwest suburbs, Nathan Hale Lodge No. 350.
Damascus Lodge No. 290 has had three Past Masters of Damascus Lodge were Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin. William W. Perry in 1895, Fred L. Wright in 1928, Thomas Loignon in 1933.
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