The City of Tacoma formally recognized one of Tacoma’s oldest fraternal organizations Tuesday during a brief ceremony at City Hall.
Knights of Pythias, a benevolent organization founded in Washington, D.C., by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Justus H. Rathbone as a way to address tensions between the North and the South following the Civil War, celebrated its 150th anniversary on Feb. 19, according to organizations officials. Knights of Pythias derives its name from the Greek story of Damon and Pythias, which stresses loyalty, honor, and friendship.
Tacoma’s Knights of Pythias chapter dates back to 1881 and has been headquartered in a historic building in downtown Tacoma since the structure was constructed 108 years ago by notable architect Frederick Heath. Its membership rolls have included prominent figures in Tacoma history, such as Job Carr, John W. Sprague, and J. M. Junett. The Knights of Pythias Commencement Lodge No. 7, located at 926 Broadway, is listed on Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
Seven years ago, Historic Tacoma and Knights of Pythias were awarded two grants — $1,000 from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Fund, and $2,000 from the Colonial Dames of Washington (the Knights of Pythias provided $3,000 in matching funds) — to complete restoration work on the organization’s historic building.
Three years ago, Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission honored the Knights of Pythias with an award for outstanding achievement in historic preservation for the group’s work renovating its original windows and neon sign, adaptively re-using its retail space — which is home to Tacoma Youth Theatre and Seabury School, and hosting historic preservation meetings and workshops in the building.
Last week, Tacoma’s Knights of Pythias celebrated the organization’s 150th anniversary by opening its doors to the public to screen the 1962 film “Damon and Pythias” and offer tours of Castle Hall. During a city council meeting yesterday, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland read a proclamation formally recognizing Knights of Pythias’ 150th anniversary, and the local chapter’s important role — past and present — in Tacoma.
“Our current lodge at 926 Broadway was built in 1906 and we continue to serve as faithful stewards of that building, and to our city, by exemplifying our core values of friendship, benevolence and charity,” said Knights of Pythias Commencement Lodge No. 7 Vice Chancellor Joel Larson. “We thank you for the recognition today and wish to invite any Tacoman, or anyone else, for that matter, to visit on Monday evenings to our historic lodge and get to know us better.”
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KNIGHTS OF PYTHIAS PROCLAMATION
On Tuesday, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Tacoma City Council formally recognized the 150th anniversary of Knights of Pythias with the following proclamation:
WHEREAS Justice H. Rathbone and Abraham Lincoln conceived of the notion to form a fraternal brotherhood based on the Greek story of Damon and Pythias based on the ideals of brotherhood and friendship as the way to heal the wounds caused by the Civil War; and
WHEREAS the order was founded on February 19, 1864, and chartered by the United States Congress in 1870; and
WHEREAS this new fraternal order sought to build friendship through loyalty and truth, to support and teach patriotism, and to extend charity and benevolence to those in need; and
WHEREAS the residents of New Tacoma and Old Tacoma join together to establish their own lodges of Pythian brotherhood in the summer of 1881; and
WHEREAS the Knights of Pythias Commencement Lodge No. 7 has been the steward of the historic Pythian Temple on Broadway since its construction in 1907 and is currently celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the national organization;
Now, therefore, I, Marilyn Strickland, Mayor of the City of Tacoma, on behalf of the City Council, do hereby congratulate and wish to the Knights of Pythias a happy 150th anniversary.
Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.