Freemason Universal Lodge No. 1 Gets Historical Marker

First Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Virginia Honored

In 1775, Prince Hall and 14 other free black men were initiated into the freemasonry brotherhood directly descended from the United Grand Lodge of England. This Virginia marker recognizes the historic significance of Universal Lodge No. 1, a chapter of Prince Hall Masonry, founded by three Alexandria men in 1845. Today’s leadership of Universal Lodge No. 1 stand in front of the new marker at 112 East Oxford Avenue in Alexandria which was dedicated on Saturday, March 23, 2019. (Photo: Debby Critchley)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Last year, Alexandria Freemason McArthur Myers submitted an application to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources asking that one of Alexandria’s proudest institutions finally get the recognition it deserves. On Saturday, March 23, 2019, that new historical marker for Universal Lodge No. 1, which is among just 10 such markers granted in all of 2018, was dedicated with a long-overdue celebration.

The text on the marker reads: “Prince Hall Masonry originated in Massachusetts in 1775 when a lodge attached to the British army initiated Prince Hall and 14 other free black men as Freemasons. Universal Lodge No. 1, the first Prince Hall lodge in Virginia, was established in Alexandria on 5 Feb. 1845. According to tradition, founders William Dudley, Benjamin Crier, and Sandy Bryant were seamen who had become masons in Liverpool, England, in the 1830s. They later joined Social Lodge No. 1 in Washington, DC, and worked to charter a new lodge across the Potomac River. Before the Civil War, Universal Lodge No. 1 met secretly in a house on South Royal Street in Hayti, a black enclave.”

This grave marker in Boston honors Prince Hall, who on March 6, 1775, along with 14 freed black men were made Masons by Worshipful Master John Batt of Army Lodge No. 441 of the 38th Regiment of Foot of the British Army. (Courtesy photo)

Throughout North America, the Caribbean and Europe there are Freemasons whose lineage began in Boston in 1775, when Prince Hall and 14 other freed black men secured a charter to join the international association.

The history of the Prince Hall Masons is exceptional, especially given the time in this country when the Lodge was founded.

With their texts of black lettering against a silver background and their distinctive shape, Virginia’s state historical highway markers are hard to miss along the commonwealth’s roadways. There are now more than 2,500 of them erected in Virginia to commemorate people, places, or events of regional, statewide, or national significance.

Virginia’s historical marker program is the oldest such program in the nation, beginning in 1927 when a handful of markers were erected along U.S. 1 between Richmond and Mount Vernon.

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