History of the Masonic Home of Virginia
Located at 500 Masonic Lane, Richmond, Virginia, the Masonic Home of Virginia was chartered by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia in January 1890.
The series of events that led to the founding of the Masonic Home of Virginia brings into history’s limelight the story of two men, one with a burning desire for action, the other with property and a purse. Verbal history suggests that following the absorption of the Masonic Academy by the Richmond public school system in 1871, Masons in the Richmond area of Virginia began discussing the need for a Masonic Orphanage. Several different committees were appointed by the Grand Lodge between the years 1871 and 1888. These committees were instructed to survey the need for a Masonic Orphan Asylum in Virginia. When the committees reported back to the Grand Lodge, they consistently stated the establishment of such an institution was not feasible. As far as can be found, no reasons were given for the negative reports; however, it was clear that such a daunting task needed a spark to light the fire.
Dr. George Potts, born in Canterbury, England and a member of Astrea Lodge No. 85, made several eloquent appeals to the committees and to Grand Lodge, encouraging the establishment of a home for orphans, but without success. In December 1889, Dr. Potts made a particularly eloquent plea to Masons assembled in Grand Lodge. Moved by the reasoning and passion of Dr. Potts’ speech, Captain A. G. Babcock offered a gift of $5,000 in cash and a conditional pledge of further assistance if the home were established. This pledge motivated the Grand Lodge Committee to amend its previous action and favorably report on the need and feasibility of a home for orphans.
In response to the Committee report and the pending gift, a groundswell of support emerged among the delegates to Grand Lodge and a resolution was adopted, authorizing the establishment of a Home for orphans of Virginia Master Masons. The committee assigned to the task petitioned a charter from the General Assembly, which was adopted on January 7, 1890. Legally, that is the date of the founding of the Masonic Home of Virginia.
Subsequent to the chartering, on February 18th, 1890, Captain Babcock donated real estate consisting of “44 ½ acres of excellent farming land on Nine Mile Road, with a dwelling of ten rooms in good order, a large barn and stable recent built, and all of the other necessary outhouses.” This property made up the bulk of what is today the grounds of the Masonic Home. Additional parcels from Captain Babcock and others were added over the years to achieve the total of today’s ninety acres.
From this humble beginning, our Masonic Home raised 839 children of Virginia Master Masons from 1890 to 1975 and has cared for 1,200 adults since the adult division began in 1955. The Home owes its existence to the persistence of one man and the generosity of another, two heroes whose foresight and courage began the journey that led to today’s Masonic Home of Virginia, a place where life is celebrated and enjoyed.