Xenia Lodge #49, Free and Accepted Masons is probably the oldest continuous organization in Greene County.
The lodge was officially organized on March 6, 1819 only 16 years after Ohio became a state. The meetings were held on Friday evenings on or before the full moon of each month so that the members being largely from the surrounding country might have the full benefit of the moonlight.
The first Master was Joshua Martin, M.D., an early physician in the area who was influential in securing the Little Miami Railroad. He died in 1835 of heart disease and it was said his was one of the largest funeral processions ever seen in the community.
When new officers were elected, Abner Read became master with his twin brother Amassa holding an office as well. Those men are remembered as clockmakers at Oldtown. They built a three-story mill “The Xenia Factory” where broadcloth, flannel, and blankets were made. It might be interesting to note that Simon Kenton (the frontiersman) became a member in 1823.
At first, the meetings were held in a building on South Detroit Street on an upper floor of what later became Donges Drug Store. A fire on Jan. 20, 1884 destroyed all the property of the lodge with the exception of the minute book which was held by the secretary at his home.
An invitation from Ivanhoe Lodge, Knights of Pythias to rent their facility was welcomed and for a few years, this was the meeting place for the Xenia Masons. In 1889, the Ivanhoe Lodge decided to move to another location so the Masons rented the existing building.
A new site for the lodge was selected in 1896. The Steele Building was a most impressive structure at the corner of Main and Detroit streets. The lodge leased both the fourth and fifth floor. An elevator was available; however it only went to the fourth floor. In order to get to the meeting room on the fifth floor, one had to climb the stairway. The fourth floor was used for open meetings and dinners. This was a very satisfactory arrangement for some years but the lodge members wanted to have a building they would own. They set their sights on a former church lot at the corner of West Market and North Detroit streets. However, before they were able to raise the funds for the purchase, the lot was leased and eventually sold to the Standard Oil Company, which cleared the lot and installed what was perhaps the first gasoline and auto service station in Xenia.
Roberts Villa was built in 1844 by M.W. Roberts; son of Silas Roberts. The property consisted of several hundred acres bordered by the Columbus Pike, East Church Street, Detroit Street, and Kinsey Road. Portions of the property have been utilized since by Shawnee Park, the Armory, Shawnee Elementary School, Greene Memorial Hospital, Central Junior High, Xenia High School Physical Education Building, and numerous housing additions including Stadium Heights and Amlin Heights.
The Villa as originally built consisted of 21 rooms on two floors, with the same number of rooms in the basement and in the attic. The walls were of brick which ran from the basement to the attic.
The original plan was to have a side door facing Church Street and a front door facing Detroit Street. The contractor turned the plans 90 degrees and it was not until the basement was completed that the error was found. The front door then faced north toward the countryside while the “side” door faced Detroit Street.
Upon entering the Detroit Street entrance, one found a large reception hall with walls and ceiling paneled with quarter-sawed oak. There was also a winding stairway which was all mortised and pinned with wooden pins. Not a nail was used. Across the hall was a seat with a mirror above, the frame of which was hand-carved. The ceiling was also hand carved.
The nearby library was also paneled with quarter-sawed oak. The glass panes in the windows were curved to match the contour of the building. Fireplaces were in all the rooms.
The Villa and bordering lots were sold to the Masons for $25,000 in August 1925. The lodge immediately relinquished the rented space in the Steele Building. Three years later an addition considerably increased the square footage of the structure.
The Masons were often asked to assist in the laying of a cornerstone for a public building. Xenia Lodge was honored to help lay the cornerstone for the Court House in 1901, the Xenia Post Office in 1914, and the cornerstone for Central High School (later Central Junior High) in 1921. When the city building was constructed in 1939, again the Masons assisted at the ceremony. When Roberts Villa was purchased, a cornerstone, donated by Dodds Monument was placed as well.
After the April 3, 1974 tornado, the lodge was again without a home. The tornado destroyed Roberts Villa. They salvaged what they could of the old Villa and built a new structure on the same site. Some of the magnificent woodwork was salvaged from the old building and when the new structure was completed, it installed on the main floor along with a beautiful staircase which had also been preserved.
For more than 200 years, the men of the Masonic order have provided assistance whenever possible to the community.
Remembering Paul Kintzel
Known to his friends and fans as “P.K.,” Paul Kintzel was for many years, the news and sports announcer for radio station WGIC. A WWII Army veteran, his voice was readily recognized all over the Miami Valley. Although he grew up in New Hampshire, he graduated from Antioch University in 1941 and then made his home in Yellow Sprints. He served as mayor of Yellow Springs, volunteered for the Yellow Springs senior citizens as well as other groups. When the 1974 tornado destroyed much of Xenia, his was one of those voices which kept the community informed on the radio.
— Joan Baxter
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.