Exploring the Virginia WindowNovember 26, 2019
Without fail, when a first-time visitor to the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center (MMHC) enters the Col. James B. Ladd Museum and Charles W. Nelson Library, they emit an “ooh,” “ahh,” or a gasp when they see the stained glass art on display. At approximately seventeen feet high by eight feet wide, this stained glass window is not something you would expect to see in a Masonic museum.
Installed in the Virginia, Minn. Masonic Temple by Gaytee (now Gaytee-Palmer) Stained Glass, the window was a 1961 donation from John D. Lamont, who joined Virginia Lodge No. 264 in 1906 as a charter member. It came to the Minnesota Masonic Historical Society and Museum in 2015, when Virginia Lodge No. 264 merged with Eveleth Lodge No. 239.
The Holy Bible, square and compasses are the central focus of the window, as a nod to Virginia Lodge. Surrounding the center at 9, 12, and 3 o’clock respectively, are symbols representing the primary Masonic organizations which called the Virginia Masonic Temple “home:” the OES Signet, representing Star of the East Chapter No. 210, Order of the Eastern Star; a cross and crown, denoting Eveleth Commandery No. 35, Knights Templar; and a keystone as an illustration for Virginia Chapter No. 77, Royal Arch Masons.
The lower half of the window has figures which also exemplify the groups in the building. Much like in a liturgical setting, the figures also tell a story. The left panel stands for the International Order of the Eastern Star. It illustrates the story of Ruth from the Bible; Ruth holds a sheaf of grain from reaping the harvest (as devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi), and Naomi bears a treasure chest, representative of the treasure that Ruth is to Naomi. The center section depicts King Solomon, and a craftsman building the temple. This represents the Lodge and associated groups of Masons which met in Virginia. The right panel offers us the blossoming flowers emblematical of the world’s youth, meeting as the International Order of Job’s Daughters Bethel No. 6 (girls), and Alexander Hamilton Chapter of the Order of DeMolay (boys).
The former Virginia Masonic Temple has been sold; but, its unique art window preserved, it will stand as witness to the robust Masonic family that was in Virginia, Minn. in the late 20th century.