Freemasonry in what is now North Dakota had its beginning with Captain Meriweather Lewis, a member of St. Louis Lodge No. 111. He and Captain William Clark entered the present state of North Dakota on October 13, 1804. When settlers finally came to the area that was to become Fargo in about 1870, a number of them being Masons, petitioned the Grand Lodge of Minnesota for dispensation and in November 1872 Shiloh Lodge # 1 was constituted. The very first meeting was held in the old Headquarters Hotel.
Shiloh Lodge is one of the original lodges of the Dakotas and over the 129 years since it's inception has occupied a number of lodge sites. The first substantial Masonic building in Fargo was at 11 South 8th Street, a location better remembered as the Dakota Business College. However, this building was built by Masons and served as Shiloh's home from 1884 until 1890. In fact, at the top of the building today one can still see the words, "Masonic Block". Thereafter, the Masons moved into the upper floors of what is remembered as the "Kessler Block" on Second Street just across from the old Carnegie library, both now demolished.
On June 7, 1899 the corner stone was laid for the great Masonic temple at 501 First Avenue North, a site now serving as a parking lot for Gate City Bank. The 17,500 square foot red brick building with Little Falls granite trim was completed in April 1902 at a cost of $80,000 and served as home for Shiloh Lodge as well as the Scottish and York Rites and the Shrine until 1968 when it became another victim of urban renewal. Judging by the two postcards above, it appears that there was a later addition on the west side of the building (to the left on the postcards).
In the same year as the cornerstone was laid, 1899, J.H. Zimmerman composed the Fargo El Zagal Carnival March. The cover to the sheet music is pictured to the right.
The entrance had a large imposing arch supported on either side by granite pillars. It was topped by a pyramidal roof supported by 12 Corinthian columns at the top of which was the Scottish Rite eagle. The building had a gymnasium with swimming pool and it housed one of the finest early libraries in the region consisting of over 20,000 volumes covering a wide field including literature, history, philosophy and Masonic works. The building also housed a museum and together with the library occupied over 5,000 square feet of space with 5,575 lineal feet of shelving.
Many of Fargo's prominent early citizens belonged to Shiloh Lodge. The lodge presided at the laying of the cornerstone of the University of North Dakota on October 2, 1883 and has, over it's long history, been involved in many other noteworthy historical events.
The present Masonic temple is located at 1405 North 3rd Street.