HISTORY BY CAROL HURD
THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN MIAMI (Official Name)
Now Located in Deerfield Beach, Florida
The Theosophical Society in Miami is the oldest lodge in Florida still in existence. Its charter is dated February 9, 1919 and was signed by the then International President, Annie Besant. In February 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Hanchett, who traveled constantly throughout the Section came to Miami and rented the auditorium of the Woman’s Club for three evenings. The lectures were well advertised and the first evening found the hall packed and many turned away. From these lectures the Lodge was formed with Mrs. Kate C. Havens of Chicago as President.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s the membership of the Lodge rose and fell from a high of 66 in 1932 to a low of 34 in 1934. As I remember, in the 1960’s through the 1980’s the membership stayed around 50. Throughout its long history it has met in various places in Miami—in the Miami Conservatory of Music, in a downtown office building among other places. In the 1950’s it met in a room in the back of a health food store that was owned by a member.
Our former National President and former International President, John Algeo got his start in theosophy through the Miami Lodge. He has told this story in a letter to us on the occasion of our 75th anniversary in 1994. In 1947, when he was 16 years old he started confirmation classes at the Gesu Catholic Church. In the course of his reading in the Parish Library he came upon a series of booklets on “dangerous heresies,” which were intended to warn the faithful against what the good Jesuit Fathers thought was wickedness. One of the little booklets was on Theosophy. John says that he read it and thought to himself, “My goodness, but that sounds interesting.”
A few weeks after that he noticed an ad about a meeting of the Theosophical Society in the paper and decided to see for himself what the dangerous heretics looked like up close. He was given the book Elementary Theosophy by L.W. Rogers and that book sold him. He joined in August 1947. John said that this story has a moral: “We should not worry about critical comments and unfair reports, or about being called names and misunderstood. Those who are seeking will find in whatever reports come their way that which they need to find. Truth is great and will prevail over and even out of falsehood.”
My husband’s mother, Daisy Hurd, now deceased, transferred to the Miami Lodge from the Pittsburgh Lodge in 1925. Both Daisy and John have told of the socials and covered dish suppers at the lodge quarters and also in members’ homes. After every meeting for many years most of the members went to Walgreen’s for tea and toast and to continue the discussion. One of the members owned a small yacht and took the whole lodge on a sailing trip to some island in the Atlantic. One of the members at that time was an ex-general, the deposed president of a Central American country, who had a magnificent house on Miami Beach, in which he used to host visitors and have all the lodge member’s as guests for supper.
In 1960 the Lodge bought a garage apartment on NE 62nd Street in Miami across from what was then the Notre Dame Academy, a Roman Catholic girls’ high school. They renovated it, adding a room in the front that became our meeting room and bookstore. The library took up the back room. In 1962 the work was finished and they moved into their new quarters.
By the end of the 1980’s our membership dropped again—to a low of 30 for a variety of reasons. We then realized that it was necessary to move. We looked around Miami for many years but could not find a suitable location that we could afford. It was in 1993 that the opportunity came for us to move to our current location here in Deerfield Beach, a shopping center with walk-by as well as drive-by traffic. It also already had several complementary businesses, including a yoga center, a massage therapist, a vegetarian restaurant and others. We had a benefactor who was not a member who loaned us the money to make a down payment. We were able to sell our Miami facilities to the Roman Catholic Church just in time to close on the deal and to reimburse our benefactor. We moved in the summer of 1993.
It was a good move for us. We now have classes every day of the week, morning, noon and night. We are very grateful to the hundreds of theosophists before us, most of them unknown to us, who have made it possible for us to own our Miami building as well as our current one and who built up our extensive library and our bookstore.