Freemasons share history during Open House

Chaplin Gordon Rose and his wife Ivy in the OES Room of the Bundaberg Freemasons Building during the 2019 Open House.
Chaplin Gordon Rose and his wife Ivy in the OES Room of the Bundaberg Freemasons Building during the 2019 Open House.

Amazing sights were on offer as part of Open House with attendees taking the opportunity to view Australia's only ‘Masonic dome' in a self-guided tour of the Bundaberg Freemasons building

The building, at 61 Bourbong Street Bundaberg, hides a wealth of history – although the façade doesn’t give any indication of the surprise within.

But today many community members were lucky enough to walk through the door to be immersed in its timeless atmosphere.

The Freemasons building features two temple rooms and a supper room, all very different and each with a purpose of its own.

Order of the Eastern Star

The height of the ceilings was the first thing to catch the eye walking in to the first of three rooms at the Freemasons building during the Open House event.

This room is the chapter room of the Order of the Eastern Star, also known as OES room, and it is the newest of the three rooms, opened in 2008.

Member of the Eastern Star and District Grand Patron Des Wust said it had been a supper room before that room was relocated to the back of the building.

“It used to be the old junk room and was used for storage before we transformed it,” Mr Wust said.

Freemasons Des Wust and Beil Branch at the Bundaberg Open House
Freemasons Des Wust and Beil Branch at the Bundaberg Open House

“To keep it in context with the age of the building we put as near as we could, to reflect the era, fans and high ceilings which are original.

“The doors are all Indonesia mahogany, cost a fortune, believe you me, but the object of the exercise was we wanted to keep the façade of the temple in keeping with the Lodge Rooms next door.”

Mr Wust said the OES Room was used when the members met once a month for fellowship, and it contained a ceremonial setting of chairs around a five-pointed star, each point having a significant meaning within Freemasons fraternity:

  • To walk with our brothers and help them on their path through life
  • To remember our brothers in our prayers
  • To deal with our brothers always “heart-to-heart”
  • To listen to our brothers attentively and with civility
  • To speak kindly to our brothers, giving them good and wholesome advice when we see them err.

Chaplin Gordon Rose and his wife Ivy have been part of the Freemasons for 52 years and have been part of many Masonic Lodges around Australia, but find Bundaberg’s history very unique.

“To have a function in a room like this you need a minimum of 18 members,” Gordon said.  

“This room was created after we left the East Bundaberg Lodge and moved here.”

Unique dome roof for all to see at Open House

The second room is the Masonic Temple and is a rare sight for anyone to see, as it features the one and only “Masonic dome” roof in all of Australia.

Open House Bundaberg Freemasons Building
Community members were given a look inside the Bundaberg Freemasons Building during the 2019 Open House.

“We have basically the same thing that occurs in the OES room in here – meetings, we raise money for charity and that sort of thing, we initiate Freemasons in here with a ceremony and the five Lodges meet here also,” Mr Wust said.

In the centre of the spectacular blue dome hangs a large capital G which refers to God, Mr Wust said Freemasons’ were not a religious order, but the philosophy taught within the society was closely aligned with the teaching of most religions in the world.

Mr Wust said not all Masonic Lodges were as beautiful as the Bundaberg Freemasons building and other lodges overseas had domes, but this was the only one in Australia.

“The dome represents the heavens – most other temples have a flat roof with the G hanging down vertically, ours lays flat,” Mr Wust said.

“The building in 1925 I think it was, was donated by the Buss family to the four lodges and it took them about three years to make this lodge room and the dome was put in then and the first meeting was held here in 1928.”

Mr Wust said the flat part of the roof was pressed steel and if there was ever to be a fire it would be a significant loss to the Bundaberg Region.

He said the furniture in this room was also kindly donated by the Buss Family, and the Freemasons were very grateful for their contributions to the fraternity.

The supper room

The last room to visit on the Open House tour of the Bundaberg Freemasons is the supper room, which is lined with tables and chairs on a wooden tessellated floor.

Freemasons member Ian Clarke said the history of the building was unique and the Freemasons were happy to share it with community members when they could.

“The Buss’s donated this building, it used to be a grocery shop down stairs and a house on the top,” Mr Clarke said.

“The Buss’s paid to have all the furniture put in and the dome.

“We used to own right through to Quay Street, but when one of the Buss’s died, probate stepped in and we had to sell the back part.”

Freemasons have been in the Bundaberg Region since the 1850s and Mr Clarke said they were now really trying to open the organisation up and make it family friendly.

Freemasonry in Bundaberg

Freemasonry offers a non-religious, non-political and non-racial organisation aimed at making good men better, open to all men over the age of 18 years.

History shows a fluctuation in membership numbers influenced by various factors, for instance, experiencing a rise in membership after both World War I and World War II.

Freemasonary was established in Bundaberg over 130 years ago. Today the Freemasons engage in numerous community work and assist local organisations through financial donations.