Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

The Keystone State Library Association, established in 1901, selected the Butler County seat of Butler in western Pennsylvania for its fifteenth annual meeting in October 1915, and one of the reasons is obvious. Librarians would convene for their first session in the community’s grand Masonic Temple, completed four years earlier.

Butler Lodge Number 272, Free and Accepted Masons (F&AM), chartered in 1863, and the Butler Chapter Number 273, Royal Arch Masons, organized in 1890, purchased the South Main Street property of Sarah B. McQuistion in January 1909 for twenty-five thousand dollars to erect a lodge building. The rear section of McQuistion’s residence was originally part of a tavern kept by William Brown, one of Butler’s first innkeepers, who was granted a license in 1804.

Designed in the Neoclassical Revival style, the Masonic Temple is built of brick above a stone foundation. Its façade epitomizes the Neoclassical Revival style — spawned by classically styled buildings erected for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago — with massive, prominently placed columns, symmetry, and design motifs borrowed from ancient Greek and Roman buildings. The style represented strength and stability, and became the choice of design for banks and brokerage houses, educational institutions, public buildings, libraries, and fraternal lodges between the mid-1890s and 1935. Even before builders completed Butler’s Masonic Temple, a department store, Templeton and Company, opened in its first floor in 1910.

In addition to Butler Lodge Number 272, F&AM, Victory Lodge Number 694, F&AM, and the William H. Miller Lodge Number 769, F&AM, also share the temple today. The building is included in the Butler Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

At the twenty-second annual meeting of the Keystone State Library Association, held in Altoona, Blair County, in 1922, members voted to rename the organization the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA). Today, PaLA is headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, and represents more than nineteen hundred personal, institutional, and commercial members affiliated with public, academic, special, and school libraries throughout the Commonwealth.

To learn more about Pennsylvania’s oldest and most diverse professional library organization, visit the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) website.

 

The editor thanks Bernadette A. Lear, PaLA archives committee chair, for providing historical background for this installment of Wish You Were Here!