2019-10-07: Only school in the US founded by Masons named to National Register of Historic Places2019-10-07T07:56:01-04:00


Shelly Angers, N.H. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources
Twitter: @NHDNCR

Only school in the US founded by Masons named to National Register of Historic Places

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has announced that the building first known as the New England Masonic Charitable Institute in Effingham has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places, for both its architecture and for its role in the history and development of the Town of Effingham.

Built in 1858, the two-and-a-half story New England Masonic Charitable Institute is the only large public building in Effingham. Its Italianate details include boxed eaves with paired scroll-sawn brackets, corner quoins and a heavy hood over the main entrance.

The building’s elaborate three-stage tower has a Masonic seal on the front and clock faces on the two adjacent sides. Its octagonal open belfry protects the 1863 bell, which was used during World War II for air-raid warnings.

Founded by the Charter Oak Lodge No. 58 of Free and Accepted Masons, the New England Masonic Charitable Institute is the only school in the United States known to have been run by the Masons. Opened as a coed institution in the fall of 1861, its ceased school operations in the early 1880s.

Charter Oak Lodge No. 58 sold the building to the Town of Effingham in 1891 for one dollar but retained rights to the second floor in perpetuity. The walls and ceilings of the Lodge’s temple space are covered with trompe l’oeil murals attributed to Boston painter Philip A. Butler. Images of classic sculptures, architectural details and Masonic symbols, including the All-Seeing Eye, are incorporated into the paintings. Heavily water-damaged in the late 1980s, they have since been restored.

The first floor, which was originally a single classroom for the Institute, served as Effingham’s town hall from 1891-2005. Established in 1893, the town library initially shared space with the town hall but has been the sole occupant of the first floor since 2005.

A Veterans Memorial, installed near the entrance in 1933 when town offices were in the building, includes a bronze plaque mounted on a rectangular piece of granite. It lists all Effingham men who served in the Revolutionary War, the Great Britain-United States War, Civil War and the World War.

Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.

Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as educational tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.

In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org) and the Conservation License Plate Program (nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).

For more information on the National Register program in New Hampshire, please visit nh.gov/nhdhr or contact the Division of Historical Resources at 603-271-3583.

New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources, the State Historic Preservation Office, was established in 1974 and is part of the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. NHDHR’s mission is to preserve and celebrate New Hampshire’s irreplaceable historic resources through programs and services that provide education, stewardship, and protection. For more information, visit us online at nh.gov/nhdhr or by calling 603-271-3483.