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African-American
Lodges
in Maryland

Charles Sumner Lodge
Chestertown
Kent County

Freedom's Friend Lodge
St. Michael's
Talbot County

 

Maryland contains a number of examples of fraternal lodges built and used by African-Americans, including the Charles Sumner Lodge in Chestertown, Kent County, and the Freedom’s Friend Lodge in St. Michael's, Talbot County. While these lodges were built in different towns, they shared the same purpose; to celebrate the lives of the African-American men and women who lived there. The lodges served as meeting halls, rally points, and community centers.

There is little information available regarding the history of lodges in general. This lack of historical evidence may be due to the sometimes secretive nature of the fraternal societies that built the lodges. For this particular project the current owners were able to provide a basic history for each building. Based on the two lodges documented in this project, it is reasonable to state that African-American lodges were more than just the home of secret societies and were also used as community gathering places.

These buildings also share similar construction styles and techniques. The basic form of the buildings is the same: a two-story, rectangular, frame structure. While each building has a different floor plan, they both exhibit some features that are consistent with the building type. Both buildings contain large, open spaces that could be used for meeting space or entertainment space for large crowds. Both buildings have stage areas that could be used for public presentations and entertainment. The Charles Sumner Lodge and the Freedom’s Friend Lodge also have interior doors that contain peep holes. This feature relates directly to the use of the buildings as the home of secret fraternal societies.

The lodges have been found in two distinctly different conditions. The Freedom’s Friend Lodge has been in continued use through the years and has been adapted to support those uses. The Charles Sumner Lodge has not been used for years and was rapidly deteriorating until concerned community members began the long process of restoration. Physical documentation of these two buildings combined with historical research provides information on how they were constructed, but also the communities that built them, why they built them, and how they used them.

 

 
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