Knights of Pythias have been serving since 1882

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

 

STANDING PROUD: The Knights of Pythias building has been an important part of life in Old Town Tustin since it was built in 1 925. The C. E. Utt family home occupied the corner prior to that time

Tustin had three fraternal organizations back in the 1880s: the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the I.O.G.F., and the Order of the Knights of Pythias. Only the K of P, which was chartered in 1882, still meets.

Affiliated with the Order of Knights of Pythias, an international, nonsectarian fraternal order was founded in Washington D.C. on Feb. 18, 1864, by Justus T. Rathbone.

The first fraternal order to be chartered by an Act of Congress, it aimed to heal the wounds between the North and South and promote friendship among men and relieve suffering. Tustin Lodge No. 85 is one of more than 2,000 in the United States and Canada.

The Tustin lodge met for many years in rooms on the second floor of the First National Bank of Tustin building. Then in 1925 they bought the property on the northeast corner of Main and D (El Camino Real) from C. E. Utt and had a two-story neoclassical commercial building constructed. Their lodge hall and offices occupy the entire second floor with the lower level available for shops, offices and businesses.

The Knight of Pythias building has housed many tenants including Tustin’s first City Hall from 1927 to 1949 and the Tustin Post Office, 1930 to 1949. Tustin Variety Store and Tustin Drug Store were longtime occupants on the D Street side of the building.

Tustin Shoe Shop and Tustin Radio Shop were tenants on the south side facing Main. Present occupants include the Tustin Area Museum, Tustin Chamber of Commerce and I Initial.
As an adjunct to the lodge, Pythian Sisters, Tustin Temple 27, was chartered in 1923. Approximately 50 wives of members joined this group. Knights of Pythias members and the women of its auxiliary were counted among the social leaders of Tustin.

A wit once said, “To be somebody in Tustin, you have to belong to the Knights of Pythias, American Legion and Tustin Presbyterian Church.”

In addition to doing charitable work, the group sponsored dances and socials for members and guests. Pythian Sisters were excellent cooks and published a cookbook, which became a best seller. As the lodge members aged, the membership dwindled and the Pythian Sisters disbanded.

However, under the leadership of Eric Zeeker, chancellor, and Breit Olivier, vice chancellor, the lodge membership has risen to 60 men in 2008.

The building, which the lodge still owns, is considered a candidate for the National Register on the basis of its architecture, quality construction, high degree of original integrity and significance in Tustin history, according to a City of Tustin Historical Survey by Thirtieth Street Architects Inc.

Most of the characteristics of its 1920s architecture remain, including matching bay windows on the lower floor with the enclosed main entrance to the second level centered between them. Also in keeping with the architecture of this period is the section of glass brick embedded in the floor at the entrance to the Tustin Area Museum to allow natural light to filter into the basement.

Look up the next time you pass the gold and brown textured-brick structure and you will see the colorful Knights of Pythian emblem that confirms its early chartering and identifies it as Lodge No. 85.
 

 

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