On the corner of Mill Street in Milton is a nondescript two-story building whose history dates back to a fraternity first formed in 18th century England.
Founded in 1848, Endeavor Lodge No. 17 is one of 28 Freemason lodges in Delaware, where men gather to shoot the breeze, find ways to help their neighbors and participate in a few secret rituals.
“We have dinner here,” said lodge Secretary Sam Katz. “That's not a secret. Sometimes we have pasta.”
There are some secrets, though, such as the wording and intricacies of Masonic rituals, as well as secret grips, handshakes that can prove someone's claim as a Mason.
“But they're not that secret. You can find them on the internet,” Katz said. It's also no secret Milton’s lodge is rich with history – it was founded by James Ponder, governor of Delaware from 1871 to 1875, and several other Delawareans.
Freemasonry dates back to 1717, when four groups of stonemasons in England combined to establish the Grand Lodge of England. Some documents indicate similar organizations existed as early as the late 1300s, Katz said.
“We have a lot of history,” he said. “But we're not a religion. Your religion doesn't count. Your race doesn't count. The bottom line is we make good men better men.”
Katz, who moved from Philadelphia about a decade ago, said the Delaware lodge welcomed him with open arms. The lodge also holds local community fundraisers, including holiday food baskets for local schools and events benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Now the lodge needs help.
The Town of Milton says the lodge has to fix sidewalks outside the building, and lodge members also need to scrape up about $65,000 to fix the foundation of the 134-year-old building. Town officials have granted the organization some extra time to get the sidewalks fixed because of the foundation problems.
“We're trying to obtain some funding, like grants or some type of low-cost loans,” Katz said. He said the lodge is looking for ways to reduce the cost of fixing the foundation and avoid the need to raise the entire structure.
No fundraisers have been set at this time, he said, but people are welcome to donate by sending a check to the lodge at 201 Mill St. The organization is always looking for new members. For more, go to www.endeavorlodge17.com.