Big Bear Lodge No. 617 formed in 1925, back when the mountain community was still called “Pine Knot.”
For several years prior, a local Masonic club had been meeting in the valley on a regular basis at what they referred to as their “duck dinner.” Members of this club included Masons that were both residents and non-residents of the valley.
To make the Masonic club a permanent affair, the club members decided to incorporate and erect a building. However, the Grand Lodge of California disapproved of this approach, arguing, before you could have a Masonic club, you must have a chartered lodge. The club idea was therefore abandoned.
Brother Grover J. Braden, then Master of Alexander Hamilton Lodge in Los Angeles, obtained the approval of Grand Lodge officers to organize a Masonic lodge in Big Bear Valley. But the first major obstacle was finding a suitable meeting place to meet, a need that was temporarily satisfied by fitting up the second story of the carriage house at the home of William “Bill” Knickerbocker.
Then Grand Master of California, David J. Reese, visited the valley and, being satisfied that the situation was suitable for a Masonic lodge, issued a grand lodge dispensation with the understanding that the newly formed Big Bear Lodge would immediately provide itself with a suitable meeting place.
A building committee was formed, land was acquired, and the first Big Bear Masonic Lodge facility was erected in 1925. It was a two-story building with the lodge room on the second floor and the lower floor leased out for business purposes. That building presently houses the Big Bear Mountain Brewery west of the village.
That same year, Bill Knickerbocker handcrafted the necessary furnishings for the east, west and south stations, as well as for other officers of the lodge – that same furniture presently sits in the lodge room of the Big Bear Masonic Lodge building on Summit Boulevard, and is in regular use during official lodge meetings and degrees.
The first lodge building – where Big Bear Mountain Brewery now exists – went up fast. It broke ground in August 1925, the foundation was poured on Sept. 1, timbers were erected on Sept. 10 and the building was dedicated in November of that same year. There were seventeen charter members of Big Bear
Big Bear Lodge No. 617 was one of the first lodges in the state to receive a charter in its own building, and is believed to be the highest lodge in elevation in California. At one time, Big Bear Lodge boasted the oldest living Mason in the state – Brother Juel O. Travis, who was 105 years old at the time.
Having been in existence for over 90 years, Big Bear Lodge No. 617 is, without a doubt, the oldest fraternal organization in Big Bear Valley and we are proud of our long tradition of American patriotism, brotherhood and charity.
-Worshipful Jim Weyant, P.M.