Fraternal Societies: The Knights of Pythias
This prominent three-story Chuckanut Sandstone and brick building was described in 1891 as "The most substantial structure in the city with the exception of the Hotel Fairhaven." There was great anticipation for the construction to be completed. It was hoped that the building would be ready in time for the Knights of Pythias conclave that Fairhaven would be hosting May 19-22, 1891. As the Fairhaven Herald reported in March 1891 the Knights were pushing completion of the structure "as fast as men and money can do it.” Alas, the Knights’ new "Castle Hall” wasn’t finished by May, though the Fairhaven Hotel served just fine as convention headquarters. Finally, on August 25, 1891, the Knights celebrated completion of their hall with grand speeches and singing. An awe-struck reporter described it as "one of those enjoyable never-to-be-forgotten occasions that we poor mortals seldom have the pleasure of participating in while journeying through this wilderness of sin and sorrow."
At that time in the early 1890s, Fairhaven was remarkably endowed with secret, benevolent, protective and social organizations. The Order of Knights of Pythias was one of the most popular. Established in 1864 in Washington, DC it was the first fraternal order to be chartered by an Act of Congress. Upon completion of their building, the Knights shared both space and name with another fraternal organization, the Freemasons, a secret society that got it start in the United States in the 1700’s. The building is more commonly referred to as the Knights of Pythias Building, although the Masonic Hall name is also inscribed at the top of the building.
The 3rd Floor Society Halls
The top floor contained the Knights of Pythias and Masonic Halls. Castle Hall, used by the Knights of Pythias takes up the entire back of the building facing Bellingham Bay. The Masons’ secret society hall was located in the large room overlooking 11th Street. A door, including peep hole, still guards this room.
Other Fairhaven Societies including the Rathbone Sisters, Royal Neighbors of America, Modern Workmen of America and Independent Order of Odd Fellows, also met in these society rooms—each on a different day. As of 2010, these empty rooms appeared unaltered from the secret society days of the 1890’s and early 1900’s—dusty, with remnants of the red carpet and layers of wallpapers, tattered but still in place.
According to Bert Grooms granddaughter, the upper floors were declared uninhabitable by the late 1950’s. During Fairhaven’s Hippie Years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the fire escape, located at the back of the building (over looking the Fairhaven Village Green) had become an entrance into the building for those looking for a free place to live. The lower portion of the fire escape was removed to discourage unwanted tenants.
|Courtesy Whatom Museum Photo Archives |
Gordy Tweit Collection
Back of the Fairhaven Cash Grocery and Knights of Pythias buildings.
Front area is now Fairhaven Village Green
The Nelson Block is to the far right