No city of similar size had more social or fraternal organizations than the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts. By the turn of the 20th century the city was host to at least three hundred such organizations. They helped provide the citizens of Lawrence rich and varied life away from toil in the mills. A number of these groups owned property and ran programs from their own buildings. This collection does not claim to be exhaustive. Only the organizations from which the library has some material are included.
The library had more material on a few groups to place them in their own collections. The Lawrence Rotary Club can be found in collection (1999.6), The Lawrence City Mission is in (1999.7) and the Lawrence Society of Natural History and Archaeology is in collection (1998.7), the Old Resident’s Association (2002.12), Grand Army of the Republic materials can be found in the Civil War Collection (1998.4), The Lawrence Women’s Club (2004.22) and various religious organizations can be found in the Lawrence Churches collection (1998.12). More information on the AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians) is available at the AOH library located on the lower level of the South Lawrence Branch of the Lawrence Public Library. Programs for the Bread and Roses Festival, Semana Hispana, Desfile Dominicana, the Festival of the Three Saints, and the Lawrence History Center are cataloged with the monographs.
- The Arlington Athletic and Social Club was located at 564 Hampshire St. in 1951.
- The Bavarian Reading and Progressive Society was founded July 15, 1890 by 34 men of Bavarian descent. For the first year the society met at the former Matthes Hall on Hall Street. The next year meetings were at the restaurant of Mr. Schoenland at 40 Park Street. Health Insurance was acquired for members in 1892 and was financially separate. A women’s group was started on Sept. 11, 1892 called the Bavarian Women’s Society (Bayrischer Frauenverein). The society was incorporated Sept 11, 1896. The society bought a lot and built a hall on Knox Street. It was dedicated September 25, 26, and 27 of 1896 and called the Bavarian Hall. The Singing Society (Gesangverein) Liederkrans began providing entertainment for the group in 1900. Other groups to use the Bavarian Hall were the Spitz Club (Top Club), Brewer Union No. 125, Legion No. 38 of German and Austrian Veterans, and the Young Bavarians (Junge Bajuvaren). By the end of the first fifty years the Bavarian Hall had a library and two bowling alleys. Other activities that have become annual events at the Hall are a children’s Christmas party, dinner dance, scholarships, monthly dinners, and excursions.
- The Boys Club had its start in Lawrence in 1891. The goal of the club was to provide a suitable building for the boys of Lawrence to spend their evening hours “in a safe, pleasant, profitable manner with surroundings calculated to improve them in mind, body and morals”. The club was open to youths of any nationality of religious belief and through the agency of written materials, athletics, and entertainment. The club’s first home was at 224 Broadway. Five years later the club moved to larger quarters at 325 Methuen Street. In 1907 they moved again to 125 Methuen Street. This was followed in 1918 with a building at 155-157 Haverhill Street. The gymnasium was enlarged in 1924, making it the largest gym in the city at that time. The club is now (1999) located at 136 Water St.
- Chadwick Club
- Cobra, A.C., appears to be an Italian club. The woman’s auxiliary was called the Cobraettes.
- The Council of Italian-American Organizations, Inc. was founded in 1952. In 1957 the group was conducting a drive to build an Italian-American Community Center. During this period the council was located at 54 Essex St. Some of the organizations this group attempted to unify were: Italian-American Assoc., Italian-American Civic Assoc., Italian-American Citizenship Assoc., Italian-American Toilers, Italian College Club, Italian Mother Club, Italy Grand Women’s Society, Montauk Club, Pedarese Club, Pontiac Club, Rocco D’Evandro Club, Sessa Arunca Club, St. Alfio’s Soc. St. Maria DiLicodia, St. Santontonesi, Soc., Teanese Club, Tripoli Club, United Italian-American Club, Union of Italy Grande, and Union Social Club.
- The Fortnightly Club was a women’s group that sponsored a program of lectures from October through June. Its anniversary was in February and its business meeting was in June.
- The Franco-American War Veterans was formed September 21, 1932 and was originally known as Legion Franco Americaine des Etats Unis d’Amerique. The name was officially changed in 1947. Lawrence, Mass. was home to post number 1. Wilfred P. LaPlante was elected the first commander. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts charted the organization May 16, 1933. A ladies auxiliary was soon added in October of that year.
- The Lasalle Social Club was founded in 1936 as a social and civic organization for Lawrence citizens of French descent.
- Lawrence Lodge No. 65 of the B.P.O (Benevolent and Protective Order of) Elks began on May 15 of 1887 in the old Odd Fellows Hall on Essex Street. This came only nineteen years after the first lodge was organized in New York City by a small group of men affiliated with the theatrical profession. The intent of this new organization was advance the principles of Americanism together with charity, justice, brotherly love, and fidelity. The Lawrence lodge was the third such group in Massachusetts after Boston and Springfield, and at that time initiated forty-six charter members. The early meetings were held in the Knights of Pythias Hall, later known as Needham Hall, to be followed by the Knights of Columbus Hall in the Old Bay State Building, and from 1904 to 1920 in the Schaake Block. In July of 1917 the Grand Lodge Session was held in Boston. Lawrence Day was a featured event allowing Lawrence Lodge to escort their fellow Elks through the great mills. During the years of 1919 and 1920 400 new members were added allowing the purchase of a lodge home at the corner of Lowell Street and Broadway. The membership eventually outgrew this building and in 1969 a new building was erected at 632 Andover Street. The complex included landscaped grounds, a pavilion, ball field, and horseshoe courts. The building provided a billiard room, a sauna, an exercise room, and bar. Lawrence lodge has aided the Greater Lawrence area with a number of charitable accomplishments. The lodge has provided wheel chairs and hospital beds for the afflicted, Christmas baskets to the needy, and oxygen tents and other supplies to the City of Lawrence. Other less well known activities include monies to the United Fund and other charitable drives for both religious and education institutions. In 1961 the Lawrence Lodge expended more in contributions than any other lodge in Massachusetts.
- In April 1885 a group of young men started the Lawrence Canoe Club with the objective being “…to encourage canoeing, to promote physical culture, and foster a unity of feeling among those interested in canoeing, rowing, bowling and tennis”. The group immediately set to renting a boathouse from Thomas S. Holmes. This boathouse was remodeled and repaired. A large piazza was erected on the front of the building facing the river. The second floor was a clubroom and parlor while the first floor was for the storage of boats and canoes owned by the club and its members. Later, when a movement developed to establish boating at Phillips Academy and other places, two large racing shells were procured from Yale for the use of the academy. This added use of the boathouse required an extension on the building in order to accommodate the academy crews. 1889 experienced a boom in membership including residents from Lawrence, Methuen, and Andover. The club decided to limit the membership to 250 men and ran with a large waiting list of 50 or so individuals. In 1899 the Lawrence Canoe Club was admitted to the New England Amateur Rowing Association. The club was distinguished by a number of championships during these years, but the fire of April 11, 1904 destroyed all the banners and trophies. The club eventually owned the site and rebuilt.
- Thursday evening, February 1, 1872 several gentlemen met at the house of Dr. Garland (in Dr. Chamberlain’s rooms) to form a social and literary club which would be called the Lawrence Monday Night Club. These individuals were all men of importance in the young city. There were 11 charter members and 6 more followed almost immediately. The numbers of members was limited to 25. Initially the men were encouraged to read essays of their own and that the choice would be made alphabetically. This club met to listen to essay about such subjects as mental philosophy and religion, history, politics, literature, medicine, manufacturing, travel, and other disparate topics.
- The Lawrence, Methuen, Andover, and North Andover Community Chest was chartered in December of 1929. It was a cooperative organization of citizens and social welfare agencies with the goal of raising funds for the social and health agencies associated with it and promoting the social welfare and health of the community by coordinating existing programs. The organization uses the symbol of the “red feather” which was originally used during the crusades as an award given for outstanding acts of courage and valor. When a community adopted the red feather as a symbol it would take on the designation “Community Chest Red Feather Services”. Agencies the Chest supported were the Andover Guild, Boy Scouts, Catholic Charities Centre, Family Welfare Association, Girl Scouts, International Institute, Jewish Community Center, MSPCC, Protectory of Mary Immaculate, St. Ann’s Orphanage, Tuberculosis League, USO, YMCA, YMHA, and YWCA. The descendant organization of the Community Chest is the Merrimack Valley United Way which is still very active in the are contributing to many worthwhile groups.
- On October 30, 1907, the Lawrence Anti-Tuberculosis Association was organized “to combat tuberculosis by preventing the spread of the disease and aiding in the care and treatment of patients afflicted with it.” To this end, poster campaigns began (in a variety of languages) and lectures were given to various groups to educate the public. Health exhibits were held yearly and Health Sunday was observed in all the churches. The people of Lawrence were encouraged not to use roller towels and communal cups used at public pumps. In 1908, the Lawrence organization along with other communities’ started selling Christmas seals in order to raise money for the cause. In the following decade, a dispensary was established for diagnosis and treatment of patients. The local Board of Health aided the group by pinpointing where the disease was most prevalent. Later, with the cooperation of the Ladies Charitable Union (Lawrence General Hospital), a day camp was organized on the porches of the bungalow on the ground of the hospital. In 1917 the Board of Health of the City of Lawrence took over the dispensary. A city hospital for tuberculosis patients was built in the Den Rock area and was used by local patients until the Middleton Sanatorium was built. The name was changed to the Lawrence Tuberculosis League in October of 1920 and became the Lawrence Tuberculosis and Health Association in October of 1948. In the 1920s the group began weighing school children and providing those found to be 10% below weight with a milk and cracker breakfast. All chlordane were tested for TB. The first health camp was run in Hampstead, NH in 1921. After that the camp was in Boxford. The Lawrence Rotary Club sponsored the first two years. The Ladies Charitable Union again came to the aid of the association purchase a camp. Lawrence Kiwanis also came to the aid of the Tuberculosis Association and the Camp now named Camp Endeavors was very successful. The camp was ultimately closed in 1955. At the time of the organization’s 50th anniversary, it was still providing free x-rays at the hospital and visiting the industrial plants throughout the city.
- Masonry or the Ancient Order of Free and Accepted Masons, a fraternal organization, was in the area to be called Lawrence before the dam was built. Grecian Lodge was chartered in Methuen on December 14, 1825. Grecian surrendered its charter to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1838, but reinstated its charter December 27, 1847 in the town of Lawrence. The first meetings were held at the corner of Essex and Amesbury streets. In 1872 Grecian moved to the Saunders Block. Other lodges chartered in Lawrence were Tuscan (1853), Phoenician (1870), Mt. Sinai (1861), Lawrence Council (1868), and Bethany Commandery, Knights Templars (1864). The Freemasons moved into their own building at Jackson Street overlooking the Common. The building is still owned by Lawrence Freemasons and Grecian Lodge still meets there (1999).
- The first fraternal organization in Lawrence was the United Brothers Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was instituted May 28, 1847 in the building on the southeast corner of Hampshire and Common streets. Later the members moved to larger quarters on the north side of Essex Street midway between Lawrence and Pemberton streets. In 1874 the group ultimately moved to the Odd Fellows Building which was located on the south side of Essex Street. That building no longer exists.
- The Polish American Veterans of Massachusetts organization was formed in October of 1948 when servicemen from Lawrence, Lowell, Springfield, New Bedford, and Worcester met in Worcester. The purpose of this group was “to preserve the principles for which the American of Polish descent fought, bled, and died, for the preservation of the fundamental freedoms of American democracy.”
- The Polish Women’s Alliance of America Lawrence Group 804 started in 1951. This appears to be some kind of insurance group.
- The Pontiac Social and Political Club was founded in 1937. The membership appears to be Italian-American.
- Royal Arcanum was a mutual beneficiary association whose goals were to unite fraternally “…white men of sound body, health and good moral character, who are socially acceptable, and between twenty-one and fifty-five years of age”. Royal Arcanum took on the role of social safety net. It aided the widows and orphans of deceased members and established a fund for the relief of sick and distressed member. The order was started in Boston June 23, 1877. Members must only pass through one degree. In the year 1886 the order was prohibited in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia liable to be infected with Yellow Fever. Each member must undergo an exhaustive medical exam with research into his family history to detect hereditary tendency to disease. The society operated as both a fraternal organization and an insurance company, banking on the well being of its members. The Royal Arcanum was composed of two chapters in Lawrence: Lawrence Council No. 17 and the Merrimack Council No. 1148.
- The Social Naturalization Club was a creation of the Lawrence French community. The year was 1914 when Victor Gingras founded the organization with 35 members. The first meeting, November 17, 1914, was in the basement of the Franco-American building at the corner of Broadway and Lowell streets. This structure would later become the Elks building. The charter explains the purpose of the club: “…encouraging its members to become American citizens and promoting their mutual social improvement…” In 1965 at the 50th anniversary of the club’s incorporation the organization was located at 232 Lowell Street.
- Lawrence Turn Verein was the creation of Fritz Matthes and Wilhelm Patschkel. The organization they were striving to found was dedicated to the sport of gymnastics. The Turner motto is “A sound mind in a sound body.” In the year 1853 these two with a number of followers began to practice a variety of gymnastics at a house on Union Street. The gym was composed of a high bar and parallel bars. The dedication was enlivened by a five-man band, which was composed of three guitars, one accordion, and one fife. Financial difficulties led to a dwindling of membership. In 1859 with an increased number of German immigrants another Turn Verein was started at the corner of Jackson and Common Streets. Continued membership and financial difficulties were eventually overcome when the original Mr. Matthes along with Fritz Schubert and fifteen others laid the groundwork for a Lawrence Turn Verein. The new headquarters was on the third floor of a house on Essex Street. Two years later in 1867 a summer Turnfield was prepared on a lot on Park Street. The membership had reached 50 men. In an effort to raise money to build a Turn Hall the membership presented a theatrical production. At a cost of $1,675 Turn Hall of the first German Hall was built in 1868. Lawrence Turn Verein joined the Boston Turn District. In 1872 a large hall was built. On November 23, 1894 the hall burned to the ground. The new Turn Hall was dedicated June 12-14, 1896 was located at 44 Park Street. The membership had reached 500 by the year 1900. Women were first admitted in the nineteen fifties.
- The Unity Club met weekly in the Unitarian Church during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The group read papers of local historians and invited guests to speak from all over the country.
- Lawrence Society of Deaf Mutes
- Deir El-Kamar at one time was known as the capital of the Republic of Lebanon. It was an industrial and commercial center of the area during the 19th century. A number of citizens of the city and the surrounding suburbs left at the turn of the century, immigrating to the New World. The Young Men of Deir El-Kamar and Suburbs was formed, September 12, 1914, in the City of Lawrence, to aid in uniting and binding these new immigrants in one body “to give leadership, encouragement, moral principles and material help to its members and other charitable and progressive projects”. The organization was officially incorporated by the state of Massachusetts November 1, 1923. A new branch was formed in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1937. The group included a ladies auxiliary.
- The pastor of St. Mary’s, Rev. James T. O’Reilly, formed the Lawrence chapter of the Young Men’s Catholic Association in a room on the upper floor of the St. Mary’s school building. The year was 1885 and the initial group was only a handful of young men, but it grew over the years. By 1893 the group had a gymnasium, a card and poolroom, a locker room, a parlor, and a library with over 8000 volumes. The association sponsored debates and lectures, and hosted and annual concert and ball. In 1890 the association presented St. Mary’s School with an American flag at a time when many American were questioning the patriotism of Catholics.
- The Lawrence Y.M.C.A (Young Men’s Christian Association) was organized October 12, 1876. The goals of the association include counteracting the effects of alcohol on the characters of young men. The organization was always non-sectarian, but founded by Protestants who were pro temperance. It called upon the best motives of men of affluence. The ladies were represented through the Women’s Auxiliary. To accomplish this the YMCA needed “ a cheerful, inviting and homelike place for young men to spend their evenings and leisure moments”. Central and Eliot Churches combined to form a single church. W.A. Russell purchased the building of the Eliot Church. He offered it for sale to the YMCA for $18,000 and donated $10,000 to help purchase it. After the purchase and renovation of the building, located at the corner of Essex and Appleton streets, the association could now offer a well equipped gymnasium, a reading room, and a number of parlors to be used for social occasions. A building of their own also allowed the Y to hold lectures, debates, literary exercises, and evening classes. The Y always had a variety of religious activities including services and Bible studies. During those early years the association help the youth of the city by aiding them to find jobs and places to board. The city as a whole benefited from the Star Course lectures that were hosted by the Y. A women’s auxiliary was formed in 1889. These women were instrumental in raising the money for the building, which now stands at 40 Lawrence St. Summer camps for junior members began in 1912 and by 1921 the camp was located at the lower end of Bear Island in Lake Winnepesaukee after the association purchased the site. In 1957 the Y purchased a 10-acre site on Captain’s Pond in Salem, NH for a permanent day camp. In 1962 more land was acquired on Bear Island. The present 50-acre site now includes a camp for girls. In 1967 the Y took over the running of the Andover Youth Center. Later this would become the Andover Branch of the YMCA. The year 1973 saw the construction of the new Andover-North Andover Branch. That same year the association also acquired a marina in Meredith New Hampshire to service the residence camps on Bear Island. By 1986 at the 107th annual meeting, the association changed its name from the Greater Lawrence to the Merrimack Valley YMCA. The present (1999) building includes a modern gymnasium with elevated track, a swimming pool, bowling alleys, locker rooms, function and meeting rooms, and 96 residence rooms.
Filed under: Collection, O Tagged: | and North Andover Community Chest, Andover, Arlington Athletic and Social Club, Bavarian Reading and Progressive Society, Chadwick Club, Cobra, Elks, Fortnightly Club, Franco-American War Veterans, Lasalle Social Club, Lawrence Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Lawrence Boys Club, Lawrence Canoe Club, Lawrence MA, Lawrence Monday Night Club, Lawrence Society of Deaf Mutes, Masons, Methuen, Odd Fellows, Polish American War Veterans, Pontiac Social and Political Club, Royal Arcanum, The Lawrence, The Social Naturalization Club, Turn Verein, Unity Club, Young Men of Deir El-Kamar and Suburbs, Young Men’s Catholic Association, Young Men’s Christian Association