Star Lodge #1 / Old Stone House
The Star Lodge #1 / Old Stone House is one of the oldest buildings in Charles Town, being constructed during the in 1790s by John Locke. Purchased in 1927 by the Star Lodge Number 1, Queen of the Valley Lodge Number 1558, the Old Stone House became one of the oldest African American Freemason Lodges in the country. The Star Lodge Number 1 was eventually purchased by two African American organizations and is currently used for Charles Town's African-American Culture and Heritage Festival.
Backstory and Context
The Star Lodge Number 1 was chartered in March 1877, becoming the first Prince Hall lodge in West Virginia. Prince Hall was well known as the father of Black Freemasonry in America. After Hall and fourteen other black men were not allowed entrance into a white Masonic Lodge in Massachusetts, he founded the first black Masonic Lodge in Boston in 1787. The new African American Masonic Lodge became known as the African Grand Lodge of North America. Hall began the what became known as the Prince Hall Freemasonry Movement, which has led to 4,500 lodges all over the world today. Star Lodge #1 helped organize two more lodges in Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, both chartered in 1881.
In 1885, Star Lodge #1 along with the Queen of the Valley Lodge #1558, Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows, purchased this property. The property which housed Charles Town's Prince Hall is also known as the Old Stone House and the Locke House. The land was purchased in 1791 by John Locke from Charles Washington. Since its' construction in 1795 by John Locke, the house has served as a place of entertainment, a home, and a print shop.
The Star Lodge (as well as the Fisherman’s Hall) was also used after WWI to hold meetings of the American Legion Post 63. Post 63 was originally organized in 1919 in Martinsburg, but after their charter was cancelled in 1925 it reformed in Charles Town in 1929. This was a segregated American Legion post for support black WWI veterans. The post was named the Green-Copeland Post 63; Shields Green and John A. Copeland, Jr. were two of the African American men who participated in John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry and were tried and executed in Charles Town.
The Odd Fellows sold their share of the building to the Star Lodge Number 1, Queen of the Valley Lodge Number 1558, in 1927. The Masonic Lodge continues to operate in the building and it is used for the African American Culture and Heritage Festival.
Ballard, Linda Downing. "Southwest Charles Town: The Heart of the Black Business Community." Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. Accessed February 8, 2021. http://www.jcblackhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/The-History-of-Charles-Town-Retold-The-Black-Experience-2018.pdf.
“Walking Tour of Charles Washington’s Town: Walk in the Footsteps of History.” City of Charles Town and Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://s3.amazonaws.com/discoveritallwv.com/JCHS_CTTourBrochure.pdf.