The Fraternal Order of Knights of Pythias

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Visitors to Tustin Area Museum are often curious about the building and our landlord, the Fraternal Order of Knights of Pythias.

The building is an excellent example of Neo-classical architecture according to the City of Tustin Historical Survey prepared by thirtieth street architects, inc. They rate it a candidate for the
National Register “on the basis of its architecture, quality construction, high degree of original integrity and its significance to the broad patterns of Tustin history.” One of the first things noticed at the entrance to the Museum is a section of glass brick embedded in the floor. This was once a popular way to allow light to filter into to the basement.

The lodge was chartered in Tustin in 1882. They purchased property at the corner of D and Main Streets from C. E. Utt in 1925 and had the two story gold and brown brick building constructed. The lodge hall occupies the second floor with the lower floor designed for offices and businesses.

The building has housed many tenants including Tustin’s first city hall from 1927 to 1949, and Tustin Post Office, 1930 to 1949. A variety of businesses including Tustin Variety Store and Tustin Drug Store have operated on the ground floor. Present occupants include the Museum and Tustin Chamber of Commerce.

The Order of Knights of Pythias was founded in Washington D.C. on February 18, 1864, by Justus H. Rathbone. The Tustin lodge is one of more than 2000 in the United States and Canada. The primary object of the organization is to promote friendship among men and to relieve suffering.

Members of the Tustin lodge and its auxiliary, Pythian Sisters, at one time were counted among the social leaders of Tustin. A wit once said, “To be somebody of importance in Tustin, you have to belong to Knights of Pythias, American Legion and Tustin Presbyterian Church.”

In addition to charitable work, the group sponsored dances and socials for members and guests. Pythian Sisters were considered excellent cooks. Their cookbook was a best seller. Membership has dwindled as members age and Pythian Sisters disbanded, but the lodge still observes the principles of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence.

Look up the next time you pass the building and note the colorful Pythian emblem that identifies it as Lodge No. 85.

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