More than 100 Montville residents turned out on Sunday to witness a ceremony few have ever seen. To commemorate the laying of the cornerstone of the new Public Safety Building at 911 Norwich-New London Turnpike, 13 Connecticut Masonic Grand Lodge members joined local Freemasons, all dressed in tuxedos and ceremonial aprons, for a ritual that dates back nearly three centuries.
With Connecticut Masonic Grandmaster Gary W. Arseneau presiding,
the Masons used the tools of the ancient craftsmen who first formed the masonic order to verify and pronounce the new building level, plumb, straight and true.
They checked the angle, the level, and the rectitude of the cornerstone with a ceremonial square, plumb, and level noting each tool’s symbolic meaning of equality, moral rectitude, brotherly love and friendship.
“I find the cornerstone to be level. The craftsmen have performed their work,” intoned one.
“I find it well-laid. May this edifice, auspiciously started, be completed,” said another.
After the checking the workmanship, the Masons poured corn, wine
and oil over the cornerstone. These were once the wages paid to stonemasons. Today, they symbolize nourishment, refreshment, brotherhood, freedom, joy, and peace.
It’s a ceremony that was first recorded in Scotland in 1738. In 1793, it was performed when the cornerstone was laid at the U.S. Capitol. Just as the ancient stone masons celebrated the laying of cathedral cornerstones, “We do the same in a ceremony passed down through many generations,” said Arseneau. “May the walls be plumb, the foundation level, and the corner square.”
Although rooted in the past, the ceremony also called for a present-tense reminder of the time and place in which the building was being erected. To represent those who helped construct the building and those who would be served by it, the ceremony included the placement of a time capsule at the
site. Montville residents were invited to participate and many accepted, offering contributions of their own.
The time capsule included patches and pins representing local law enforcement officers, including a pin representing Joseph Sachetello, who died in the line of duty. Montville's fire departments, the fire marshal and Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops also presented pins and patches.
The time capsule included letters from the State Senate, the Montville Town Council, original drawings of the building from the architect, and a 2012 penny. Additional contributions came from the creators of a Montville version of the game Monopoly. The local Little League put in a baseball signed by all the team members and Tyl Middle school students added the school’s red bowtie. After a little coaxing, a young girl came forward to put in a handmade card and photograph from the local soccer league.
The Masonic ceremony closed with a prayer to the “great architect.”
For locals with a vested interest who have watched the building’s progress to date, there were plenty of reasons to give thanks.
Jack Platt, chairman of the Public Safety Building Committee, couldn’t have been happier with the turnout, which included State Senators Andrea Stillman and Edith Prague, State Representatives Kevin Ryan, Betsy Ritter and Tom Reynolds, the entire Montville Town Council and former mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz.
“I thought it was terrific,” said Platt. “I can’t believe the town’s turnout. The town really supports this.”
Lt. Leonard G. Bunnell likened the seamless ceremony to the track record of the construction project to date. “We’re on budget, on schedule,” said Bunnell.
So far, so good. But though Sunday marked a major milestone, Mayor Ron McDaniel pointed out that there are a few more miles to go before the project will be completed.
“For me, it’s another step on the track,” said McDaniel. “This has been a long process and I think it means a lot for the public to see the progress.”
If you have photos or video from the ceremony, please add them!