Monday, April 29, 2013

Mom vs. Google: Note To Self . . . Always Remember Mom Can Be A Primary Source!

A few weeks ago, in this Friday Fotos post, I spotlighted the 1927 groundbreaking for the construction of the "Masonic Temple Lonsdale, RI" as captioned above on the back of the original photograph of the groundbreaking.  Prior to posting the photograph -- which shows the participation of my great grandparents and three others in the event -- I dutifully did some research on Google to see if I could find a photograph of the completed temple to use in the post.  The initial search term was obvious enough, "Lonsdale, Rhode Island Masonic Temple."  But the results did not reveal any photographs of the completed temple.  As I reported in the original post, "An internet search has thus far failed to find any additional information or a photograph of a completed Lonsdale Masonic Temple -- and so it is not known if the building was ever constructed or completed if begun."

The Google research did uncover the fate of the planned Masonic Temple in central Providence, which held its groundbreaking in 1926, but had construction halted in 1929 as a result of the start of the Great Depression.  I speculated whether this was the same fate that befell the planned Lonsdale temple.  I also asked potential readers for help in determining if the Lonsdale building was ever completed and if photos existed even if the building might no longer be there.

I did learn some information using Google and other on-line resources.  I was able to determine through discovery of a digital version of the History of Freemasonry in Rhode Island that the Lonsdale Masonic Lodge was actually named "Unity Lodge No. 34" -- and I found a list of officers in 1891 that included my great grandfather, Samuel Eber Carpenter.  This is where things sat until I heard from my mother.

Not surprisingly, my mother is one of the readers of The Prism.  She was born in Rhode Island and grew up in the house at 551 High Street in Cumberland that was the home of her grandparents, Samuel Eber Carpenter and Sarah Etta Carpenter, two of the participants pictured in the Lonsdale Masonic Temple groundbreaking photograph.  I had totally forgotten to go to my primary source for many things in life -- my mother!  She emailed me from my parents' winter home in Florida, "I know that the building was built and  used for many years---that was the lodge that Uncle David [her late brother] belonged to. It was across from the Catholic Oak and next to Blackstone Street School."

Back to Google I went, but this time I used "Cumberland, Rhode Island" instead of Lonsdale in my search terms.  And BINGO, in short order I had access to a .pdf of the 1998 revised version of Historic and Architectural Resources of Cumberland, Rhode Island by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission. 

Cover showing a "Bird's Eye view of Lonsdale, Rhode Island (1888);
lithograph, O.H. Bailey & Company, courtesy Rhode Island Historical Society

On page 37 of the publication (as shown below) was a confirmation of my mother's information and an indication that at least as of 1998, the building still existed. 

Back to Google again and very quickly I was able to determine that 15 years after publication of the 1998 revised version of Historic and Architectural Resources of Cumberland, Rhode Island, the former Lonsdale Masonic Temple still exists and, following email communication with its Executive Director, Russell Gusetti, I obtained permission to share here photographs of the Blackstone River Theater, which still occupies and thrives in the former masonic temple building. 

The main entrance to the former Lonsdale Masonic Temple, Unity Lodge No. 34,
now the Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland, Rhode Island

Full view of  the former Lonsdale Masonic Temple, Unity Lodge No. 34,
now the Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland, Rhode Island 
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Scanned image of the front cover and p. 37 of the Historic and Architectural Resources of Cumberland, Rhode Island publication of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission (Revised 1998) is used here under fair use and the belief it is in the public domain having been created with public funding.

Photographs of the building originally constructed as the Lonsdale, Rhode Island Masonic Temple, Unity Lodge No. 34 as taken off the website of the current occupants of the building, the Blackstone River Theater.  The photographs are used with permission.  For more information about the Blackstone River Theater, see, 
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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  1. Diane Boumenot just directed me to this blog and I am now one of your subscribers. We have roots in the same area. Thanks for posting the Cumberland Historic Guide - I had not known of that and I see all kinds of interesting stuff in that. My Grant/Skinner/Carpenter/Betts ancestors all lived in the Valley Falls area up until the 1920s - 1930s. I discuss them and this area on my blog -

    1. Hi Wendy and welcome to The Prism! I have visited your blog and indeed we do have family roots in the same ares of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I have joined your blog and look forward to exchanging more information. I see many family names and locations in common: Carpenter, Freeman, Grant, Moshassuck Cemetery, etc.

  2. Hi John! Thanks for reading my blog. I don't see the connection to your Carpenter line or Freeman line yet. Who are your Grants? Mine were living in Warren, RI for several generations before moving to Cumberland around 1830, probably to work in the mills. They appear to be a different line than the Grants who were in the Wrentham area and in the northern part of Cumberland - I think mine were mostly in the Valley Falls area.