The Sons of Beaufort Lodge 36 are proud to announce their comeback.
In many ways, their lodge building announces it for them.
The organization has been named the top lodge in the 1st Masonic District, which is composed of 26 lodges in the Charleston region.
"These guys have worked really hard and have really turned things around," said Bill Green, who holds the organization's "worshipful master" title.
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The turnaround started with the restoration of the 115-year-old building at 607 West St., which was purchased for $36 in 1937. It had fallen into disrepair, but it is being restored with the help of the Old Commons Neighborhood Association and the Historic Beaufort Foundation, both of which helped raise money to match a $26,000 grant from the S.C. Department of Archives and History.
The first phase -- fixing up the original building -- is finished and cost about $100,000, Green said. The second phase will include the construction of a breezeway and secondary building that will include a kitchen.
"We couldn't even occupy the building when we started this project," Green said. "We were almost condemned."
The building isn't the lodge's only restoration project. It has worked to solidify its place in the community, too, according to Green.
It's outreach includes Thanksgiving baskets to needy families and backpacks and school supplies for children. According to the lodge's website, members also volunteer for Bayview Nursing Center, Habitat for Humanity and the Adopt-a-Highway program.
The lodge has about 75 members, with 20 to 25 consistently active, Green said.
Maxine Lutz, president of the neighborhood association and interim executive director for Historic Beaufort Foundation, called the lodge the "backbone of the community."
Before the renovation project, neighbors knew little about the men they saw going to monthly meetings at the West Street building, she said. Now, they're an involved part of the community helping with projects big and small.
"If a little old lady needs a refrigerator moved out of her house, they'll put out the word, and several men will show up," she said. "We have a lot of elderly people in our neighborhood, so it's really good to know that if someone needs something they'll show up."
The lodge's lot was originally owned by Robert H. Gleaves, a prominent Mason. The building is believed to have been constructed by blacks who used materials salvaged after the Hurricane of 1893. It was used as a meeting hall for African-Americans before Lodge No. 36 bought it, according to the organization.