I see there is construction underway at the old Masonic Temple Building on St. Charles Ave. Can you tell me a little about the history of the building and about the Masons? What's the future of the building?
The first Masonic Temple was located in the Faubourg St. Marie on the corner of Camp and Gravier and was acquired in 1797 for the Perfect Union Lodge that had been organized in 1793. During Catholic Spanish rule, Masonic orders were very unpopular, but after Louisiana was admitted to the Union in 1812, the Grand Lodge of Louisiana was formed.
In 1825, the property was sold, and for a while, the lodge held its sessions on Rampart Street between Dumaine and St. Philip.
The Masons returned to the Faubourg St. Marie when they purchased in 1853 the Commercial Exchange building on the corner of St. Charles and Perdido. Then in 1869 they planned a new temple on St. Charles at Lee Circle. This site was never occupied by them, and in 1891 the old Commercial Exchange was demolished and another temple erected on the St. Charles and Perdido site. The present temple is the third Masonic Temple on this site, built in 1926 and designed by Sam Stone.
The construction you see is the result of a $34 million conversion of the building into the 250-room Monaco Hotel, scheduled to open Aug. 25 with a rededication of the building and ribbon cutting on the 28th. The company that is converting the 19-story, 220,000-square-foot building is the Kimpton chain that was recently awarded a preservation award from the U.S. Department of Interior.
Would it be possible to get more information on the Weckerling Brewery? As these are our ancestors, we would like to know more about them. Also we understand there is a Weckerling Cemetery in New Orleans.
Joyce and Louis Weckerling
Dear Joyce and Louis,
New Orleans was once home to 13 breweries, one of which was the Weckerling. When I last wrote about the brewery, I explained that it was built on the site of an earlier brewery and had its grand opening on Oct. 13, 1888. The Daily Picayune devoted three columns to a detailed story about the event. The building designed by William Fitzner occupied the block between Magazine, Camp, St. Joseph, and Delord (now Howard) streets.
At the end of the 1800s, there was a major expansion of the brewing industry. When an English syndicate made an attempt to purchase six of the breweries in 1890, the New Orleans Brewing Association stepped in and purchased the Weckerling along with five others -- Southern, Louisiana, Pelican, Lafayette, and Crescent -- for just over $3 million.
With the coming of World War I and Prohibition, most of the breweries went out of business. The Weckerling was one of them. From 1925 to 1995 the property was the home of Gallagher Transfer and Storage Company. Today this site is famous as it houses the National D-Day Museum that opened in June 2000.
Here are some additional facts. Before the Weckerling Brewery closed its doors, the founder, John Joseph Weckerling, passed away. Since he was such a prominent citizen, his death was noted in an obituary in the Times Democrat of Dec. 24, 1908. The paper described him as "one of the oldest and best-known of the sturdy German citizens who have helped build this city."
Your ancestor was born in Alsace and came to New Orleans in 1841 when he was 20. After becoming successful in the shoe business, he organized the Weckerling Brewing Company and became president. When the NOBA combined the six breweries in 1890, Mr. Weckerling retired from active business.
During his lifetime, he was a member of many charitable associations, a "type of the industrious, sober German citizen ... known and admired by a host of friends." Mr. Weckerling was living at 1505 Calhoun St. at the time of his death and was survived by five sons. He is buried in Metairie Cemetery.
However, I must tell you that while New Orleans has many, many cemeteries -- we're famous for them -- there is no Weckerling Cemetery.