MSA Mark Twain Award Winner - 2012
Fidelity Lodge #113 F&AM

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The Fire of 1881

Then in 1881 another catastrophe overtook Fidelity Lodge. W.Bro. John F. Cruse had been Master barely two months, when on March 9, 1881, the Writenour-Colfax with its Wilson Hall burned to the ground in the most disastrous fire in Ridgewood's history. Almost an entire block of buildings was destroyed in this fire. The Master succeeded only in saving the lodge Bible. When he descended the stairway after making this rescue he found the square clinging to his shoe.

In this fire, the Lodge lost everything but its debts. Some of these were paid out of the $200 insurance carried on Lodge property. A further tragedy was the fact that the only meeting hall in Ridgewood had been destroyed.

It is of interest to note that in 1881 all elected stations were occupied by Past Masters:

John F. Cruse, PM
Worshipful Master
Garret G. Van Dien, PM
Senior Warden
John M. Knapp, PM
Junior Warden
John A. Marinus, PM
Joseph W. Edwards, PM

The Ridgewood House

In 1874 John Halstead, who was raised in Fidelity Lodge May 26, 1871, opened the Ridgewood House, a hotel located on the south side Ridgewood Avenue, about midway between Broad and Prospect Streets. After the fire of 1881, the proprietor of the Ridgewood House offered to set aside two upper rooms for the use of Fidelity Lodge until suitable quarters could be found elsewhere. The Lodge accepted this offer and paid $50 per year for the privilege. The hotel rooms were first occupied on April 29, 1881. At this meeting the brethren cut jewels from cardboard and a pair of scissors served as compasses. Since the small rooms in the hotel were wholly unsuited for degree work all candidates received their degrees in Paterson through the facilities of Falls City Lodge.

Ryerson Hall

While the lodge was at the Ridgewood House, Mr. E. F. Ryerson commenced the erection of a building at the southeast corner of Ridgewood Avenue and Broad Street. The Lodge prevailed upon him to set apart the third floor of this building for a lodge hall and signed a lease for the hall for five years at a rental of $100 per year. The building was completed in the spring of 1882. The first communication was held in Ryerson Hall on May 26, 1882. The Lodge was to continue in this new location for eighteen years. In Ryerson Hall the Lodge almost immediately acquired subtenants and thus considerably reduced its own rental cost.

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