Orange Lodge restoration first project for new Green’s Harbour Heritage Society
The disused Orange Lodge No. 9 in Green’s Harbour has seen a lot of history since it was built in the late 1890s.
“ The Orange Lodge was where all the times were held, weddings were held ... the Orangemen put on movies for the community. Back in the day public exams were held there,” said former Green’s Harbour resident Nancy Brace, whose father was an Orangeman. “At one point it was a courthouse when the circuit judge would come through. Joey Smallwood spoke out in front of it for the pro— Confederation thing he was doing.”
That’s why a group of Green’s Harbour residents — past and present — are working to restore and revitalize the disused Orange Lodge building.
Brace, the president of the Green’s Harbour Heritage Society, said she and several other residents incorporated themselves in October.
“ We’ve been working ever since to get ownership of the building and have it as a living museum/art gallery/community centre, said Brace, who used to live in Green’s Harbour but now lives in St. John’s. She added the society includes a past master of the Orange Society as well as members of the Ladies’ Orange Benevolent Association.
“Edwina Suley of the Carbonear Heritage Society was invaluable in helping us get started. She came over and did a presentation to the original members at the original meeting of how to get up and going,” said Brace.
Clarke March, a past master of the lodge, said the building is important to more than just former members.
“Not only as a past master, but most of our history ... a lot of our buildings are destroyed in Newfoundland,” he said.
Centre of entertainment
“At Christmastime, on Boxing Day, it was the centre of entertainment, because that’s where they had their time, and the brass band that we had at the time used to play tunes. Everybody gathered and brought their supper.”
The society worked out a deal to buy the lodge from the Spaniard’s Bay Orangemen club
— which recently absorbed the declining membership of the Green’s Harbour chapter — for $17,500. Of the purchase price, $12,500 consists of loans from society members, and fundraisers will be held to pay back the loans.
“As of April 1, we will have the building,” said Brace. On April 7, the society is hosting a takeout supper — sponsored by local restaurant CJ’s, and the St. John’s fundraising committee of the society is hosting a fundraiser the same night at the Martini Bar in St. John’s. They’re also hoping to hold a dinner/dance at The Majestic in June as well as a concert at the Green’s Harbour Lion’s Club in July.
And once the loans are paid off, work on the building itself begins.
“ The biggest problem is that there’s a leak in the roof, and there’s been damage done to the wood,” said Brace. “Other than that, the building looks the same as it always did; it just needs a little TLC.”
And once the building is owned outright, Brace said the society will be eligible for various provincial grants — some of which will be matching funds, which means fundraising for the lodge will be ongoing.
“ We don’t want to just fix it. We want to restore it, you know, make it a world-class venue,” she said. “ We want to stay true to the historic appearance of it.”
Brace said the Orange Lodge is a reminder of Green’s Harbour’s status and history.
“All the men in my family had been Orangemen, and once the building is gone, it’s like they never existed,” she said, while adding that, as a female, she doesn’t advocate the lodge’s maleonly policy. Even though she could have been an auxiliary member of the women’s association, since she “grew up in the heart of the women’s lib era,” that wouldn’t have been good enough, she says. “ But, in terms of heritage and history of our community, it was a marker that we were a community of importance, because not every community had an Orange Lodge or a town meeting place. ... It gave a certain stature and importance to our community in its day. And the Orangemen did do a lot of community work. There were people in the community that went to university that would not have gone otherwise, because of their affiliation with the Orange Lodge. So all of those things are important.”
Brace recalls being distressed in the mid-’70s when the community’s United Church was torn down.
“I was a teenager, and I was so upset about that happening, because I think what makes a community — whether it’s a rural community or a city — what makes it unique, what makes it itself, is its architecture. And once you’ve removed major pieces of architecture, you’ve removed the personality of the place. You would no more go to London, England, and buy Westminster Abbey and tear it down because it’s old than you would cut your arms off.”
March was similarly critical of the decision to tear down the church, as it was an example of the craftsmanship of builders using hand tools and not machines.
“The man that built it, I don’t know if he could write his name or not. He had only a finger and a thumb on one hand, and he built a pulpit,” she said. “He walked from Green’s Harbour to Heart’s Content, across Heart’s Content barrens to Carbonear, to look at a pulpit over there in the church, and he came back, and they say the one he built was better than the one that was in the church over there.”
Brace compared landmark buildings in rural communities to the Inuit stone inuksuit landmarks — a stone signposts used for navigation or reference in the Arctic.
“ You know the inukshuk, and the meaning of the inukshuk — ‘ we were here’? To me, the Lodge is our inukshuk,” she said. “It was such an important building, whether for events or for heritage ... and once it’s gone, my nieces and nephews, their children coming up won’t have a clue any of that ever happened.”
And it’s not just the Lodge’s history in Newfoundland that Brace wants to preserve, but its representation of ties overseas, even as its inception as a males-only, Protestants-only society disappear.
“As we become less British and more Canadian here in Newfoundland, those symbols of our ties to Britain will fade,” she said. “ There’s still a very strong Canadian presence of the Orange Lodge in Ontario, but I’m fairly safe to say there’s not a lot of young people joining it.”
Just as when the United Church was torn down in the ‘70s, said Clark, there are people in Green’s Harbour who don’t see the point in saving the building.
“Some people (say), ‘Oh, what do you want to keep that for? It’s an eyesore,’” he said.
Brace said the society is going to show Green’s Harbour residents that the building can be restored to its former glory.
“ You have to almost prove to (the community) that this is real and it’s really going to happen, and then they’ll get on board,” she said. “ When somebody actually starts to grease the wheels and make them move, you will have people jump on board to volunteer their time and do the actual physical work, even though they may not be interested in sitting on a committee and making the wheels move.”
Even now, Clark is reluctant to divulge secrets of Orange Lodge meetings, but said singing hymns on Good Friday is a cherished memory.
“ You get about 200 men singing, and maybe someone there that knows how to play the accordion, it’s rocking,” he said. “ You feel the presence. There’s some greater being than yourself. You feel good. And when you come out, you feel good.”
The newly formed Green’s Harbour Heritage Society hopes to restore the community’s disused Orange Lodge, which was built in the late 1890s.