What is now the Floridia Club at 9 Wellington Street was for most of its history the site of the Kensington Masonic Lodge, which was built there in 1913 (with a second floor added in 1925).
Masonic lodges played a significant role in Melbourne’s foundation. The history of the Kensington Lodge stretches back to 1884, when the Hotham Lodge (North Melbourne) was renamed the Hotham and Kensington Lodge. The Hotham Lodge, consecrated on 15 August 1862, first met at the New Courthouse Hotel on Queensberry Street.
In 1889, following the formation of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, the Kensington Lodge No.2 became the Kensington Lodge No.77.
In July 1893 there were 41 members. The Lodge met at New Hall at 325-327 Racecourse Road (where there is now the Unijoy KFL Supermarket).
There were regular attempts to find another location and in 1901 a motion was carried to meet at the “new” Flemington and Kensington Town Hall opening on Bellair Street that year.
In May 1910 at the grand cost of 202 pounds and 5 shillings a block of land was secured on Wellington Street, with an extra 5 feet purchased from the Presbyterian Church for a right of way. Three years later a motion was carried that the new hall be built at a cost not exceeding £1,600 (later supplemented with an extra £250). By 6 September 1913 the foundation stone was laid and on 18 December 1913 the Lodge held the first meeting at the new Masonic Temple.
The Lodge appears to have existed at this location without any issues until July 1915, when the City of Melbourne refused to renew the hall’s dancing licence.
In January 1916, after much consternation, the Lodge returned to the Kensington Town Hall (now no longer the town hall for Flemington and Kensington) and the Wellington Street property was leased as a billiard parlour.
In 1924 the Kensington Lodge sponsored the Flemington Lodge No. 362, which was consecrated in October 1924.
By February 1925 the mortgage on the Wellington Street hall had been paid in full and the tenants were ready to give up possession. The trustees were empowered to erect a second storey at the Wellington Street Lodge, to be used as a Lodge Room.
In October 1925 the addition to the Hall was officially opened.
In terms of the history of the local masonic lodges, on 1 July 1928 the Kensington Mark Lodge No.97 was consecrated. On 1 July 1931 the Newmarket Lodge No.495 was consecrated. On 30 July 1933 there was a 50th anniversary choral service, combined with the celebration of 50 years of the nearby Presbyterian Church.
Post WW2 the Lodge’s membership increased, with attendance at ordinary meetings in excess of 130 and the Lodge overspilling with the installations of well-known personalities.
However, by the 1970s declining membership and other financial issues resulted in a decision on 21 February 1974 to sell the property and move to the Oak Park Temple. In April 1974 the property was sold for $93,000 and in June 1974 was closed for the last time as the Flemington Temple.
The Floridia Social Club has since been custodian of the building. The Club was founded in 1969 by local Italian migrants who comprised a large part of the new Flemington community, particularly after the building of the high rise commission flats in the 1960s.
Kensington Lodge No.77 continues to meet, but 10km north at the Northern Masonic Centre in Oak Park.
The above information is sourced primarily from “Our History: The First 100 Years”, an article by Don Danks published on the Kensington Lodge website.