St. James Lodge has sat in downtown Baton Rouge for more than 100 years. However, during the early days of our lodge, we met at several locations around Port Allen. After meeting in James McCalop’s sugar house and the local court house, the lodge began renting rooms from Madam Foster in 1845 and a Madam Barham for an unknown period. In May of 1850, the lodge arranged the lease of a room with Mr. R. Beal. Later that month, and $75.00 was authorized to be spent to prepare the room for reception of the Lodge. The Lodge then occupied a house located at the corner of Church and Waters Street. In August 1856 the lodge moved into the third floor of what would become known as the Ronaldson and Puckett building. The lodge remained here until January 4, 1907, marking the end of its many short term residencies.
St. James Lodge’s current location sits at the corner of Third and Convention Street in downtown Baton Rouge. The members purchased the plot of land in May 1904 from Col. O. B. Steele and William J. Knox, both members of the lodge. A three-story building was constructed according to plans of Favrot and Livandais, Architects. The lodge held its first meeting in this building on January 4, 1907.
The Lodge’s first commercial tenant was Paulsen’s Drug Store which became known by Baton Rouge for Paulsen’s Fen-O-Tac dusting powder. An elevator was installed in the building in 1909 and replaced in 1938 to enable the Lodge to sign a lease with Walgreen’s, which remained a tenant for the next 35 years.
Over the years, St. James Lodge has shared its Lodge Hall with the following appendant bodies of Freemasonry:
The equipment and furniture of the lodge gradually shifted in the middle of the 19th century from the bare essentials to reasonable comfort. The meetings during this period were frequent and held by candlelight. However, this was less for the purpose mystique and more a result of necessity, as the lodge lacked air conditioning and central heating, resulting in incredibly uncomfortable conditions, especially during the summers. At this time, the stated meetings of the Lodge were held on the first Saturday before full moon to facilitate members’ travel on horseback or buggies.
Today, visitors are often impressed by the photographs of Masters since 1844 lining the walls of the anteroom. O. Rudolph White accomplished this in 1953, while the Lodge was being renovated.