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Inns and Taverns

The sketches and floor plans of the Goose and Gridiron on pages 412 and 413 are reminders of the fact that the inns and taverns in which the Speculative Lodges met in Great Britain and America during the Eighteenth Century were not like the modern hotel or bar-room, but were a center of hospitality of a type no longer met with; nor were they like the present-day English "pub." The inn was often one of the most distinguished buildings in a town; beautifully constructed and furnished; and managed by an inn-keeper and a staff who made of hospitality a trained profession. Except in the smallest villages the majority of inns were built with at least one large room designed for Lodges and clubs, and these usually had a private service stairway from the rear, so that even after a Lodge's doors were closed it could still make use of the facilities of the kitchen, the wine cellar, and the staff of servants. Each inn had a sign in front which consisted of a picture and which gave it its name--The King's Head, The Boar's Head, The White Horse, etc. A Masonic Lodge took its name from the inn in which it met, and it was not until the end of the Century that Lodges began to be numbered. Even as late as the end of the Nineteenth Century American Lodges here and there continued to meet in hotels; there are some of these old buildings still standing, especially in the Middle West, and on the old coach runs; in more than one of them the old fashioned judas window is still in an upstairs door, though it has been a half century since Lodges made use of them. Lodge meetings in inns and taverns were never completely satisfactory; some Lodges must never have found them satisfactory to any degree, because their Minutes show that they kept moving about every one or two years. A lack of privacy, the inconvenience of having to pack furniture and paraphernalia away after each meeting, difficulties with landlords, and the over- nearness of the bar, these were disadvantages; but it is probable that the many small early Lodges could not have managed under any other system. A joke has been made of the fact that the first Grand Lodge of Speculative Freemasonry held its first Grand Communion in a tavern but no Eighteenth Century Englishman or American would have seen any point to the joke; learned societies, clubs, religious groups, literary circles, scientific bodies (like the Royal Society), artists' groups, public officers, army and navy clubs, clubs of philosophers, an endless number of such societies met in the same rooms. A good tavern was highly respected in any community; its "mine host" often was the first citizen of his town. See The English Inn; Past and Present, by H. D. Eberlein; J. B. Lippincott Co.; Philadelphia; 1926.

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