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Freemasons seek permit to revive abandoned West Stockbridge club as their lodge

Sportsmen's Club in West Stockbridge

The former West Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club can be seen at the top in this satellite image. The Freemasons want to renovate and use the property for events. The group purchased the property from the town in March. 

WEST STOCKBRIDGE — Plans to remodel and use the long-abandoned West Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club as a Freemasons Lodge are the subject of a public hearing Monday night.

The Great Barrington Masonic Temple Association Inc. in April filed a special permit application with the Planning Board to renovate the main clubhouse on the existing footprint.

The Great Barrington and West Stockbridge Masonic Lodges each plan to use the building for once-a-week evening meetings, as well as for a monthly evening meeting “on the Friday on or before the full moon, excluding July and August,” according to the permit application.

This adds up to nine meetings a month, the paperwork says.

The lodges also would hold five additional events every year, which could include “clam bakes, fishing derbies, steak bakes and outdoor activities.”

The application says traffic would be light, noise levels “respectful,” and notes that use of alcohol on the property is forbidden.

The Masons would also notify neighbors of events.

“The Masons are famously good neighbors — their core beliefs include fellowship, charity and benevolence,” the application says. “All meetings are quiet and respectful.”

Neighbors of the property, which includes one direct abutter with a home, declined to comment on the plans.

The Great Barrington Masonic Temple bought the five-acre property in March for $120,506 from the former owner, West Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club Inc. It is valued by the Assessor’s Office at $249,600. 

The town had nearly taken the property from the corporation in 2019 for tax delinquency of approximately $49,500 that dates back to 2005, according to a report in The Eagle.

That corporation was dissolved in 2012. 

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Besides the main club, other buildings on the property include two small picnic pavilions and two accessory structures.

The property is on Sportsmen’s Club Lane off Main Alford Road, and abuts state preservation land on one side, the Williams River on the other and one private property whose residence is 350 feet away from the main club building. The application shows 10 abutters nearby.

In 1972, the property was sold for $1,500.

Its use as a Freemasons Lodge will be less troublesome to the town than its previous use as a social club, the application says.

“When the property was in use as a sportsmen’s club, members of the public would gather there late into the night drinking alcohol and having raucous parties,” it says.

Member Christopher Tonini said the lodge hopes "to build great and long lasting relationships with the surrounding neighbors and within the town of West Stockbridge along with our fraternal lodge (Wisdom Lodge) located at the center of town."

The Great Barrington Temple is originally based in Great Barrington, and is also known as the Cincinnatus Lodge, one of 23 in the U.S. founded by Paul Revere, according to the Massachusetts Freemasons website. It is the sister lodge to the West Stockbridge organization, known as Wisdom Lodge.

Wisdom Lodge, chartered in 1803, is the third oldest in Western Massachusetts, according to the website. It is one of three “full moon” lodges in the region.

“Full moon lodges meet on or before the full moon and harken back to a time when members travelled by carriage, horse, or foot and needed the light of the moon to guide them,” the site says.

“Freemasonry, sometimes just called Masonry, is the world’s oldest and largest Fraternity,” the website notes. “It aims to promote Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love among its members — men from every race, religion, opinion, and background ...”

The website says there are more than three million members worldwide.

This story was corrected to say that the Freemasons purchased the property from the former owners, not the town. 

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

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