Huge, 107-year-old Cornerstone of Lewiston Academy Will Become Part of New Village Monument
2,000-ponnd Block to Enter New Period of Usefulness in Spring; Stone Lay Undisturbed for 100 Years Until 1924, Then Renovated by Same Order Which Officiated at Laying.
A new period of usefulness will begin for the 107-year-old weathered cornerstone of the old academy at Lewiston when the demolition of the ancient school building, which is now under way, will be completed. The village trustees, it was revealed today, plan to make the stone and a small amount of surrounding masonry into a permanent monument in the village park on the site of the former academy. It is expected that this work will be done in the spring.
This will be really the third period in the useful life history of the great 2,000-pound block of stone. Laid originally in 1824, when the structure was built, it remained in place undisturbed and holding up its portion of the big masonry pile for 100 years. Then, in 1924, it was reopened in the presence of a large gathering of residents from all over Niagara county, its contents examined and new relics put inside before being sealed back into its place for what had been thought to be another long period.
Workmen are now engaged in tearing down the huge landmark with the intention of transporting the stone to old Fort Niagara, to be used in repairing the remains of the even more historic structures at that place. Officials of the old Fort Niagara association, who are indirectly conducting the work, have given instructions that the old stone and its foundations are to remain in their places undisturbed.
When the destruction of the building, with the exception of the stone and about six feet of masonry on each side is completed, the trustees of the village of Lewiston will employ masons to put a 'cap' or stone rimming on the rough edges of the triangle of stone surrounding the great block and thus make it into a permanent memorial to one of Lewiston's oldest structures, Mayor Arthur J. Piper, revealed today.
The history of the big granite block is really bound up with that of Masonry on the Niagara Frontier. On one of the sides of the block, the big compass and square of Masonry are clearly cut in the stone, while above and below these symbols are letters understood only by those initiated into the mysteries of the Masonic order.
The stone was laid in 1824 by members of the recently formed Niagara lodge No. 345. The details of the ceremony at that time are unknown but it is assumed that the usual Masonic ritual was employed in the cornerstone laying. The lodge which laid the stone did not long survive to study its handiwork. It held its last meeting on April 10, 1827, and then disbanded.
The ceremonies in 1924 were conducted by members of the Niagara Frontier lodge No. 132, which indirectly is a successor to the lodge which laid the stone. The lodge was originally formed in 1848 as the Lewiston Frontier lodge No. 132, but with the passage of years was removed to Niagara Falls in the latter part of "the fifties" and assumed its present name.
The 1924 ceremonies were conducted on July 4 in the presence of thousands of persons who had come to witness Lewiston's Fourth of July celebration. By clever engineering work the great stone was removed from its place without disturbing the rest of the building and the copper box set in a hole cut in the interior of the stone was examined. To everyone's disappointment it was found that snow and rain had seeped into the box and destroyed all the written papers inside. However, a few American and foreign coins of the period when the stone was laid, some bits of glass and a great deal of dust and mortar were found inside.
The Masons reverently scraped the hole in the block clear again, put in a new and absolutely water-tight copper box containing the old treasures, a copy of the Gazette of the previous day, a number of mounted contemporary coins various lodge directories and a history of Masonry of the Frontier, before closing the box and carefully relaying the stone in fresh mortar.
The history of Masonry was written in the form of an address and was delivered during the ceremonies at the stone that day by its author, Dr. Willis E. Cushing, of this city. Worshipful W. E. Cushing, a past master of Niagara Frontier lodge, acted as grand marshal at the ceremonies which were conducted by the lodge according to the full Masonic regulations governing the ceremony of cornerstone-laying. The Right Worshipful Robert E. McConnell, past district deputy grand master of the lodge, was acting grand master at the ceremonies.
The hole in the stone is approximately eight by ten inches in size and is about 12 inches deep. The copper box containing the new relics was made with a cover that extended all the way down the sides of the new box so that it really resembled another tight fitting box inverted over the first. Through this and the care used in fitting the stones together again it is believed that the new box will remain unchanged through the years, if it is ever reopened, some many hundreds of years in the future, its contents will be as perfect as the day they were put in.