In 1816, General William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) built what was one of only a few brick houses in St. Louis. Clark used the lower floor for business. Missouri Lodge 12, with its Tennessee charter, met in a room on the second story there from the time Clark completed the house until late 1817. Masons described the house as "poorly adapted for Masonic purposes and inconveniently located." They approached Brother Thompson Douglass, who was constructing a two-story building in the center of town, and persuaded him to add an attic, which the Masons could use. Were that building standing today where it stood in 1817, at its spot in the center of old St. Louis, it would be directly under the gleaming Gateway to the West monument, better known as the St. Louis Arch.
Upon its completion, the Masons moved into the thirty-eight square foot room to conduct their business. There they also founded Missouri Royal Arch Chapter No. 1, and, in 1821, organized the Grand Lodge of Missouri, chartering what today is St. Louis Missouri Lodge 1.
Frederick L. Billon was raised at the age of twenty-two in that very room. Born in 1801, Billon lived to be 94 years of age in a life that spanned virtually all of the 19th century. He served as Missouri's Grand Secretary for many years and thoroughly chronicled Missouri Masonry during that time. In his memoirs, he talks about one particular meeting in that third-story room which he attended on Friday April 29, 1825.
That evening, the young Brother, still a relatively new Mason, ascended the creaky wooden stairs and as he entered the Lodge room, he discovered two visitors. In Billon's words, "we were honored by a visit from our Nation's distinguished guest, our illustrious Brother General Lafayette, on the occasion of his visit to St. Louis, accompanied by his son George Washington Lafayette, on which occasion they were both duly elected Honorary members of our Grand Lodge." The United States had invited the 68-year-old French aristocrat, who had supported our country and commanded American troops in the Revolution, to tour the country.
Billon writes, "This room was used for Masonic purposes… until the close of the year 1833, when Missouri Lodge No. 1, under the pressure of circumstances, ceased her labors for a time, and the Grand Lodge was removed to Columbia Boone County." The so-called "pressure of circumstances" he mentions is a euphemism for the brutal aftermath of the Morgan affair.
For sixteen years that nondescript room provided an auspicious venue for the formation of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and served as its Grand Lodge offices. It also saw the formation of Missouri's first Lodge, the first Missouri Royal Arch Chapter, was a reception room for the great Lafayette, hosted the ceremony honoring him, and saw countless other Masonic ceremonies and events – all this in an attic that was conceived as an afterthought.