Several JEF commissions were attributable, at least in part, to his membership in the Scottish Rite of the Masonic Order. However, his first known design for a Masonic building, which was never actually constructed, was done before he was a member of the organization. The Dallas Weekly Herald of April 6, 1878 contained a brief notice that the drawing of the new proposed Masonic Temple was on display in the window of the Knepfly & Sons jewelry store, just down the street from Flanders' office. It stated that the drawing, rendered in india ink colors, was done by Flanders. At the time, the Tannehill Lodge was meeting in rented accommodations in the John Tennison building and, according to lodge historians, continued to meet there until 1881 when they moved to another rented facility in the Kain & Campbell building where they stayed until 1913. This would indicate that the building in JEF's rendering was not constructed. It was eighteen years later when Flanders himself joined the Masons.
He became a member of Tannehill Lodge, No.52 on March 19, 1895 when he was forty-six years old and passed to the Fellowcraft Degree on August 30th of that year. He was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason on November 16. JEF became quite active in the organization and the following year was appointed chaplain, entering the line offices in 1897 and becoming Master in 1900. He was the 52nd Master of Tannehill Lodge, No.52. He served the order in the offices of:
JEF's advancement through the line offices was preceded by his term as chaplain. It reflects a skip of the junior deacon position and, after serving as Worshipful Master, he served four additional terms as chaplain. Flanders was also High Priest of Dallas Chapter No. 47, Royal Arch Masons, three times the Illustrious Master of Dallas Council No. 18 and a Commander of Dallas Commandery No. 6, Knights Templar. He maintained his memberships in these lodges after moving to California in 1913, where he joined the Hollywood Commandery No.56. A family member later recalled that one of his great pleasures was strapping on his sword and marching in a parade with his fellow Masons. The brief biography of Flanders in the lodge records of Tannehill says of him:
"James E. Flanders, the 52nd master of the lodge, was an architect of much ability, and originality of design. He designed some of the finest and most costly residences in the city, and quite a number of courthouses in the state. He was the architect of the Grand Lodge Temple in Waco, Texas".
Listings of the Master Masons in Tannehill reveal several of JEF's clients including Jules Schneider and William Flippen, both of whom were early clients who engaged JEF to build their homes and businesses. The names of Sevrin C. Skielvig and O. S. Moad are also listed. Skielvig was, briefly, a partner of JEF's in 1901 and worked with him on the extant Methodist church in Terrell. Moad was also a partner for a brief time earlier in his career and his name is found on the drawings of the extant W. A. Strain residence in Lancaster, built in 1896.
The Masonic buildings that have been identified as Flanders designs were built between 1904 and 1910. They include the Grand Lodge constructed in Waco in 1904, the hall for the Brazos Union Lodge No.129 of Bryan built in 1910, and two buildings for the Widows and Orphans Home in Ft. Worth built in 1905 and 1906. No facts have been uncovered to identify JEF's religious beliefs or affiliations but his numerous appointments in 1902-1907 as chaplain of the Tannehill Lodge indicate that he held steadfast Christian beliefs. There were certainly many members of the lodge qualified and inclined to fill this position and yet JEF received and accepted a second appointment to this office a year after completing his term as Master, and still additional terms afterwards.
The early 1900's also marked a time in JEF's career when he designed a huge number of churches. During this time, he designed over 125 edifices. Most of those were done during the period of 1901 to 1913 when he produced an estimated average of eight to ten church designs per year. By far, most of these were Methodist churches. Although certainly not conclusive, this fact, along with the knowledge that later family members were Methodists, suggests that Flanders may have been a member of this denomination. However, a piece of jewelry in his estate was noted, in his will, to have been given to him by the McKinney Avenue Baptist Church of Dallas and this offers another possibility
THE MASONIC GRAND LODGE OF TEXAS - 1904
On December 1, 1902, Flanders submitted a design for the Grand Lodge Temple. Also submitting plans were Messer & Smith, architects of Waco. In February, 1903, the Grand Lodge sold their property in Houston and continued making plans for their new temple in Waco. The central location of this city was the deciding factor in it's selection over some of the other cities bidding for the building, including both Dallas and Houston. The lodge organized a building committee to oversee the arrangements for the construction of the facility and to enforce the specifications for the design. These included directions that the building would be four stories tall, the two lower stories were for rental as retail space while the two upper stories were to be used for lodge activities. The next mention of an architect is found when it is noted that "the committee had the authority to "continue the contract heretofore made with J. E. Flanders, architect. . ."
In December of that year, the committee, with much explanation and digression, referred the matter back to the lodge. The lowest bid for the new building was over $200,000, exceeding by $50,000 the authorized expenditure amount of $150,000. The committee recommended that the incoming Grand Master be included in a new committee that would work out the details of a compromise. Flanders was again retained as the architect. The new committee changed the specifications of the building to limit it to three stories. Undoubtedly additional changes were made in the specifications for when the new bids were received it was found that the General Supply and Construction Company of Fort Worth had submitted a bid of only $103,902.45, about half the amount of the previous low bidder. They were selected to build the new temple. In the financial statements of the building in December of 1904, it was reported that Flanders had been paid $4,699.24 for his fees "including extra fees to self and superintendent of work". The balance due the architect at that time was $1,219.96. The same report contained the following description of the building:
"The lot on which the temple is situated has a frontage of 100 feet on Franklin Street and 165 feet on Sixth Street. At the rear end is a twenty foot alley running from and at right angles with Sixth Street and parallel with Franklin Street.
The temple building has a frontage on Franklin Street of 90 feet, 4 inches, with a 12 inch projection of the entrance colonnade and a frontage on Sixth Street of 148 feet 4 inches, with a like projection of the entrance colonnade. The entrance colonnades from said streets are each designed with six polished monoliths of handsome granite supporting a heavy architrave of limestone enriched with terra cotta panelings. From sidewalk to top of cornice is 56 feet 3 inches and to comb of roof 82 feet. Height of basement story, being 17 feet in height contains four modern storerooms for rental purposes, with plate glass fronts and chain-appended awnings. The corner room contains a 6x10 foot fireproof vault. The storerooms are so arranged that each may be divided into two storerooms with little expense. From Franklin Street there is an entrance corridor 20 feet in width and from Sixth Street a corridor 15 feet in width. These corridors intersect near the center of the building and each contains a handsome and substantial marble and iron stairway to the second story. These corridors have Venetian tile floors and polished marble wainscoting.
The second story contains the Grand Lodge room or main auditorium being 71 by 87 feet in size and 34 feet high, with ornamental steel ceiling in deep panels and with a gallery across one end and along a portion of each side. This room is finished in quarter-sawed oak wainscoting and trim. The Grand East is flanked with a room on either side, one for the Grand Master and one for the other Grand Officers, and the overhead is set in concave decorated art glass containing Masonic emblems and lighted with 50 incandescent globes. The main floor, which rises as it recedes, contains 1,006 opera chairs appropriately arranged and in full view of the Grand East. The second story also contains the offices of the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge and Grand Secretary off the Grand Royal Arch Chapter and the Grand Treasury of the two bodies. Also the library, a fireproof vault and one subordinate lodge room, with usual ante rooms and ten committee rooms. The third story contains a room 54 feet square for the use of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter; height of ceiling is 20 feet. Also one subordinate lodge room or chapter room with necessary ante rooms. The Grand Lodge room, being two stories in height, extends up through the third story. Over the third story corridor is located a fourth story room for general purposes. The roof of the building is of terra cotta tiling, carried on seven trusses spanning the full width of the building and having a one-third pitch. The floors throughout are armored concrete of the Roebling system, carried on steel beams overlaid with quarter-sawed pine. The building is heated by steam and is lighted by both gas and electricity. Ample plumbing fixtures and water supply are conveniently arranged and located for use of the various rooms of the Temple and the stores below. The general design of the building is along the latest American idea of simple lines, with the accentuation at the main entrances and influences to the Oriental."
The design and construction of this building took place concurrently with that of the Trinity Methodist Church in Dallas. The proscenium arch design was a dominant feature of both buildings. Flanders' lodge, having served the organization for over forty years, was replaced by the extant building constructed in 1948 after another prolonged planning period,
MASONIC WIDOWS AND ORPHANS HOME, BOYS ANNEX - 1906
Ft. Worth, Texas
In 1905, Flanders again found himself caught between the Mason's desire for a suitable structure and their willingness, or ability, to pay for it. The Masonic Home and School of Texas, in Fort Worth, was, at that time, known as the Widow's and Orphan's Home. It is a charitable organization that filled a great need in the community and state in the latter years of the nineteenth century, and still does today. The home was founded by the Masons in the latter 1880's and has been supported by the Grand Lodge of that fraternity ever since. In 1905, it was time for expansion and the Superintendent of the school, Dr. Anson Rainey called a meeting of the Board of Directors on June 6. Several other Masons, not on the board, including JEF, were requested to attend.
During the meeting, Dr. Rainey gained support for his suggestion to build an entirely separate dormitory for the boys of the home, to be placed at least a quarter of a mile from the girls dormitory, to help solve "certain problems of discipline". The meeting concluded with a resolution to that end and with the formation of two committees, one to determine the exact location of the annex and the other, to have the plans prepared. The problem came with the instructions to build a facility for 120 boys with a budget of $35,000. A later historian of the home deemed this a task for Alladin rather than an architect. In a report written the following October, the building committee listed a total cost for the home of $30,429, including an architects fee of $720 for Flanders and a fee of $875 for the superintendent of the construction. The specified accommodations for the building had been reduced to 100 boys. The anticipated expense for furnishing the building was expected to increase the total cost to not less than $35,000 and the home was hopeful that additional contributions would allow the completion of the project without indebtedness. The report also noted that, with the increase in the size of the home, additional funds would be required to support its' operation but expressed the confidence that the "wisdom, liberality and patriotism of (the) Grand Lodge... would rise equal to any demand made".
In spite of the excellent records kept by the Masons, no illustrations of these two buildings remain, according to the home itself as well as the Grand Lodge in Waco.
MASONIC WIDOWS AND ORPHANS HOME, AUDITORIUM - 1906
Ft. Worth, Texas
In December, 1904, Dallas Lodge, No.760 voted to send a donation of $50 to the Masonic Widow's and Orphan's Home of Ft. Worth. It was sent to Past Grand Master William James with the instructions to use it according to his best judgement as to how it might best serve the needs of the home. Brother James had noted the need at the school for an auditorium, as the existing facility would seat only about two hundred and fifty people.
A committee was appointed to consider the requirements of the building and to determine how it could be financed. A short fund raising campaign was undertaken and within a few months succeeded in raising about $7500. Flanders offered his services in designing the building and preparing plans for it. The committee chose to proceed quickly with construction of the auditorium and, as a result, JEF had to revise the plans downwards to meet the requirements of the limited funding. As noted in a later report on the project:
"...Bro. Flanders cheerfully revised them (the plans) and brought them down to such basis as would enable the committee to make a contract. Not only has he furnished all the working plans, but he also visited the building during the course of construction often enough to see that the work was going forward in accordance with the plans and contract; and the committee desires to make this acknowledgement of the valuable services rendered by Bro. Flanders as architect in this matter, all without charge, and to express its grateful appreciation of this service and assistance."
The auditorium was described as being "a brick veneered building, 86x45 feet in size, one story high, and with a front of yellow pressed brick. The stage is of average size, to accommodate a large class, and the auditorium will, it is calculated, seat five to six hundred people". It was a noble endeavor and, the committee felt, a worthwhile contribution to the home, calling it "a great work...making practical in real life the noble and glorious principles which constitute the basis of those great orders". However the rush to complete the project with the limited funds raised in such a short period of time resulted in an unfit structure. It quickly began to deteriorate and within four years of completion, it was declared unsafe for occupancy and two years later, it was razed
BRYAN MASONIC HALL - 1909
For several years prior to 1910, JEF's two sons, Leroy and Waite, worked in their father's business as draughtsmen. In 1909, as JEF passed his sixtieth birthday, the two sons became partners in the business, which then became known as "Flanders & Flanders, Architects". One of the first buildings designed by the newly identified enterprise was the Masonic Hall at 107 Main Street in Bryan, Texas. The hall, built for Brazos Union Lodge No. 129, was, like other Masonic halls, designed to permit the rental of the first floor to retail establishments while the upper floors were to be used for Masonic functions. The extant Bryan lodge is a three-story brick building, thirty feet wide and one hundred feet deep and was constructed by the contractor J. R. Hartgraves at a cost of $12,000. The building, which exhibits a Prairie style influence, has been used continuously by the Masons since its' construction. Interior changes have been made to the rental space in the first floor but the interior of the two upper stories remain much as they were originally. The building was considered for NR designation but the nomination was tabled when the original windows were replaced by dark plate glass windows.
FLANDERS DRAWING FOR THE MEZZANINE LEVEL OF THE 1904 MASONIC GRAND LODGE IN WACO, TEXAS
Illustration courtesy of the University of Texas Architecture Library, Architectural Drawings Collection
THE GRAND LODGE MAIN AUDITORIUM.
Illustration courtesy of The Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum
FLANDERS DRAWING FOR THE FRANKLIN STREET ELEVATION OF THE 1904 MASONIC GRAND LODGE IN WACO, TEXAS
Illustration courtesy of the University of Texas Architecture Library, Architectural Drawings Collection
Illustration courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission