Not been used before as a classroom space, the Hiram Masonic Hall emerged into one this past weekend for the first time.
Williamson County Schools and the Williamson County Churchill Society met Saturday for the day-long seminar, focused on the life of Britain’s Winston Churchill. Both students and teachers met before school went back in session on Monday.
Funded through a grant by the International Churchill Society, two Churchill scholars – James Muller, Professor of Political Science at the University of Alaska, and Warren Kimball, Professor Emeritus of History, Foreign Policy and Diplomacy at Rutgers University – provided teachers and students insight on Churchill’s writings and his place in history. Artifacts on loan also came from the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo.
“The more you know about historic figures, the be more you can bring that person to life in the classroom,” WCS K-12 social studies coordinator David Rector said. “They were more than happy to help. This is a first this society has developed something like this. This gives us an opportunity for many things. It provides our teachers and students with an in-depth look of one of the 20th century’s most important figures.”
It also gave educators and students a glance inside the Masonic Hall, not a place that’s been utilized by the district before now. Rachael Finch – who heads up research at the Hall as a historian with the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area – lead the tour around the building and gave context to the significance of studying in a place with historical meaning.
Artifacts are tucked in way in most of the building’s nooks and crannies. One of the robes from third floor, stuffed in the armoire with others, dates back to the 19th Century. Burn marks are signed on the back of the fabric, with a large red cross stitched on the left side. Handwritten etchings on the wall of soldiers from the past are made available to see in the bathroom. Pockets of hidden history can be found on every floor of the Hall.
“Mostly there hasn’t been an emphasis on state and local history until this last set of new social studies standards,” Finch said. “There’s a lack of knowledge of this significance and the people who came here. A lot of people just don’t know its here. I still run into people who don’t know it exist. I think St. Philip Catholic Church and the Brownstones have engulfed it. It just blends in and our generation never paid attention because by the mid ’70s, it was closed off, and Masons were insular.”
In evolving away from a more secretive spirit, both Finch and Rector hope they can use take advantage of the Hall and its history to make it all come alive for students and teachers.
“We hope to grow a relationship with the Masonic Lodge to have more opportunities with things, like professional development and seminars,” Rector said. “We want to get teachers out of the classroom and into more historical settings. It feeds that history soul.”