Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge Mark Rustin shows some of the museum’s diverse pieces ranging from painted-on-silk aprons to commemorative trowels. PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

You don’t have to be a Mason to enjoy a visit to the museum and library at the Masonic Grand Lodge of Maine in Holden. The Grand Lodge is the headquarters for Masonry in the state.

Among the artifacts on display in the small museum is a set of silver ceremonial “officer jewels” handcrafted by Paul Revere — yes, that Paul Revere — for the Masonic lodge in the coastal town of Castine.

“He was a Mason and spent time in Castine as part of his military duties,” said Mark Rustin, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge. “The lodge there was started in 1794, when Maine was still part of Massachusetts, and Paul Revere attended lodge there on a regular basis.”

George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and several of the nation’s other founding fathers were Masons. The Holden museum includes a number of artifacts from that period, as well as from more recent times.

Small Silver ceremonial “officer jewels” handcrafted by Paul Revere. PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Small Silver ceremonial “officer jewels” handcrafted by Paul Revere.

As part of their regalia, Masons wear aprons, which hark back to the time when stone masons wore aprons to protect their clothing on the job. The Grand Lodge museum displays a collection of beautifully decorated aprons.

“There are some absolutely gorgeous, hand-painted-on-silk aprons dating from 1860 that have been given to us over time,” Rustin said. “There is a lot of symbolism on these aprons, most of which is reflective of pursuits of the arts and sciences through Masonry.”

The trowel, which is the primary working tool of masons, is a prominent image in Masonry. The Grand Lodge museum has several miniature, commemorative trowels, including one made from a piece of metal from the battleship USS Maine, which was blown up in Havana Harbor in February 1898. The incident was one of several that led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War later that year.

The Grand Lodge of Maine moved from Augusta to Portland in the mid-1800s. Two years ago, it moved to a former branch bank building at the traffic light on Route 1A in Holden.

“We moved for a variety of reasons, most of which were concerns about the condition of the building that we were renting in Portland,” Rustin said. “After looking about the state, we bought this building and did some fairly extensive renovations. It has proved to be more convenient for many of our craft members and more conducive to people stopping in.

“I think we are sort of setting a precedent for Grand Lodges around the country, where the maintenance of huge buildings is becoming a burden. They are looking at us and saying, ‘Maybe downsizing is not such a bad idea.’”

An olive wood gavel from Jerusalem is among the relics displayed at the museum. PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

An olive wood gavel from Jerusalem is among the relics displayed at the museum.

Rustin said everyone is welcome to visit the Masons’ museum and use the library. There are books on the history of Masonry, biographies of prominent Masons, books written by Masons and some general interest reading material.

The Grand Lodge also maintains a valuable resource for genealogy research.

“We have a card file that goes from 1820 through 1995, when we began to keep our records electronically, that has a card for every person who was ever a Mason in Maine with basic information, Masonically, about them.

“We’re very much aware that it’s important to have an understanding of from whence you came before you go launching off into the future,” Rustin said.

He said more than 400 visitors have signed the guest book at the Grand Lodge since it opened in Holden in 2012.

“That is head and shoulders over what we ever experienced before,” he said. “The general response is that it was well worth the stop, that they were tickled to death to encounter us here.”

Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]