The building is 245 feet long and 50 feet wide. The wing housing the library is 113 feet deep at its west end. The building was built in 1955 at a cost of slightly over a million dollars replacing the one on the same site that was built in 1884. The exterior is Vermont Marble with gray marble from Carthage, Missouri on its inside walls. All the metal work used in the construction of window frames, door frames and stair rails is composed of bronze. The building is adorned by many stained glass windows.
It is not a church, a city or college library nor any part of a university. Neither is it an exposition hall, a function hall nor a restaurant. It is the Grand Lodge of Iowa building with its Masonic Library taking up a good portion of the building. Over its front door are human figures etched in the marble with these words:
Behold The Lord Stood Upon A Wall Made By a Plumbline
With A Plumbline In His Hand.
And on another of its exterior walls is inscribed:
The Spirit Of Masonry
“Gentle Gracious And Wise, Its Mission Is To Form Mankind
Into A Great Redemptive Brotherhood, A League Of Noble
And free Men Enlisted In The Radiant Enterprise Of Working
Out In Time The Love And will Of the Eternal”
Joseph Fort Newton
It is here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on one afternoon, taking a few moments out of a business trip, that Past Master Kazar LaGrone of Pride of Mt. Pisgah #135, PHA Texas passes through the portals of this beautiful building to discover some of the treasures inside. And what brings him here specifically is the little known fact that this Mainstream Masonic Library houses Grand Lodge proceedings from many different Prince Hall jurisdictions across the USA that date back into the 1800s and a good sized collection of Prince Hall Books and periodicals.
Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas informed us that Iowa has Texas Prince Hall proceedings from 1876, 77 & 78.
I had the opportunity to talk to Iowa Grand Lodge librarian Bill Krueger on the telephone recently and I asked him how what lead to the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s long association with Prince Hall Masonry and the storing of Prince Hall proceedings from many different PHA Grand Lodges as well as a large Prince Hall esoteric collection. He could only go back so far in his reply but it was his strong belief that the previous librarian, William R. Crawford’s close personal friendship with Joseph A Walkes, Jr. certainly cemented the development of a long term Prince Hall relationship. Walkes, you will remember, was the founder of the Phylaxis Society and a prolific Masonic author in his own right.
Brother Alton Roundtree, editor of the Prince Hall Masonic Digest and a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society himself had this to say about the resources of the Iowa Masonic Library which he calls a research Mecca.
“The Iowa Masonic Library played a major role in writing “Out of the Shadows.” Seemingly, all needed materials (proceedings, books, periodicals, and collections) are in the Iowa Masonic Library. The Library collection of proceedings pertaining to Negro or Colored Grand Lodges (today’s PH Grand Lodges) and information concerning allied and appendant bodies were imperative in the research effort. I could not have written Chapter Four (National Grand Lodge) without visiting the Iowa Masonic Library. Five trips were made to the Library over a period of three years. Two of the trips were for one week. One cannot talk about visiting the Iowa Masonic Library primarily to review Prince Hall Grand Lodge proceedings without telling the truth about the lack of a central repository of proceedings and other documents pertaining to Prince Hall Freemasonry.”
But the Iowa Masonic Library is not all about Prince Hall. It has extensive works of Mainstream Lodge material and a large section of religious writings. It is reputed to be one of, if not the largest, Masonic Library in the world with over 100,000 volumes. The Library website tells us:
“There are books upon every conceivable phase of Masonry, from the time of the organization of the premier Grand Lodge of England (1717) down through the years to the present. Its history, traditions, symbolism, moral teachings, ritual, jurisprudence, Masonic conditions abroad, anti-Masonic propaganda, histories and proceedings of grand lodges, both foreign and American, including those of many individual lodges which have attained age and prominence. In addition to these may be found many volumes dealing with the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Royal Arch, Council, Knights Templar, and other rites in Masonry, some of them little known to history.”
The Iowa Masonic Library has bound annual proceedings from all Mainstream USA Grand Lodges and most of them are full and complete from each Grand Lodge’s very first Communication. In addition it has the same for all York Rite and Scottish Rite Bodies. It carries almost every Masonic journal from every English speaking country plus a goodly number of foreign language publications. And it has a large collection of rare books, such as a copy of Franklin’s reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions (1723).
Over the years The Iowa Masonic Library has been gifted or purchased prized private collections. The first was the Bower Collection which was the largest private Masonic collection of its time. The Grand Lodge of Iowa bought this collection for the paltry sum of $4,000, well below its true value, in 1882. Later was added The Arthur F. Waite Collection formerly owned by Masonic scholar H.V.B. Voorhies. Waite was a well known English Mason and mystic whose original works are highly prized. Some of these rare books and collections are housed in a temperature controlled “vault room”.
And it isn’t all Library. The building also contains two museums and a number of special collections.
Past Master LaGrone spent only a few short hours at the Iowa Masonic Library but he was duly impressed and was greeted and received with a very warm reception. He recounts his visit:
“This past Wednesday while traveling for work in Cedar Rapids I had the opportunity to visit the Iowa Masonic Museum. It was truly an enjoyable experience as I had the chance to look through an 1958 issue of Ebony Magazine that had a 8 page spread on Prince Hall Masonry. I looked through an original pamphlet by GM Upton on Negro Masonry dating back to June 15th 1898 as well as Grand lodge proceedings from the state of Mississippi dating back to the early 1900’s. While there I also had some fairly enlightening conversations with one of the Grand Lodge officers that works at the library (his name escapes me) and the collection of Masonic material and the subject of mutual recognition. “
Upon returning home he brought with him the lovely pictures you see here and a report that has many of us interested in forming a group trip back to this wonderful Library. He also communicated with Grand Master Curtis about sending copies of some recent Texas Prince Hall proceedings to the Iowa Masonic Library and with his blessing has mailed the same to them.
If you have some serious Masonic research to do, The Iowa Masonic Library should be at the top of your list of research sources. Make a vacation trip of it and spend the time to take it all in. And if you can’t go at least visit the Grand Lodge of Iowa Masonic Library.