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Commemorating a Masonic Monument

On June 22, 2018, Grand Master Bruce R. Galloway joined the Masons of King Davidís Lodge No. 209 for a ceremonial resealing of the Dorn Pyramid at San Luis Cemetery in San Luis Obispo. Robert Sachs, master of King Davidís Lodge, shares this fascinating story about the pyramidís past and present.

The Famous Dorn Pyramid

By Robert Sachs

If you are driving North on Highway 101, as you come close to the exits leading to downtown San Luis Obispo, you pass by one of those fading landmarks in American small-town life – a drive-in movie theatre. But, as you nip past the back left edge of the screen, a more surprising landmark catches your eye: a large, gray granite pyramid.

The Dorn Pyramid is a distinct and reputed San Luis Obispo landmark, which is visited by tourists and locals alike with various intentions and curiosities. It sits on the most prominent piece of landscape in San Luis Cemetery, the site of many monuments to notable local citizens and luminaries. And, the story behind this 23-foot high granite pyramid constructed in 1905 is similarly notable when it comes to the people to whom it is dedicated.

In the 1880s, Frederick Dorn was a San Luis Obispo district attorney, master of King David's Lodge, and member of the Odd Fellows. He fell in love with Cora Belle Russell, the daughter of a fellow Freemason whose family was known for its wealth and influence. They seemed like a golden couple, and were married in 1890 by a noted minister, Reverend Russell Weeks Summers of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Unfortunately, their lives were not so easy. Presumably Cora had difficulties in conceiving a child. When she did, in 1904, it was around the time that her own mother passed away. In 1905, their son died in childbirth. Two days later, Cora also passed away. The grief-stricken Dorn contracted a mausoleum in the shape of a pyramid as a testament to Cora and their son. Placed on the highest point of Odd Fellows Cemetery, it was built from ashlars of granite brought on wagons from Porterville and had exact geometric measurements.

The door to the inner crypt was never locked permanently, as Dorn intended to be buried there when his time came. But, he remarried just three years later and resettled in the Bay Area. When he died, he was buried with his second family.

According to a local San Luis Obispo legend, in the mid-sixties, a car pulled into the parking lot of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and a gentlemen (who some think may have been Dorn’s son), went into the mausoleum with a box and left empty-handed. As the door became more jammed into place, speculation grew, with no clear answer.

Mystery has continued to shroud the pyramid for decades. The precision construction of this perfect pyramid and its Masonic ties has led many authors – Masonic and non – to write of the mysterious Dorn Pyramid. It was recently featured in a multi-state treasure hunt and tourists visit from all parts of the globe. Cemetery officials report that locals have long used the spot to picnic, watch movies on the drive-in screen, and leave love notes and mementos as testament to the pyramid’s origin of a sign of undying love. Today, a local cockerel seems compelled to circumambulate the pyramid as if he is on sentry duty.

In 2017, to honor Dorn as a brother Freemason and former lodge master, King David's Lodge sought and received permission from the Dorn family to finally seal the opened wall of the pyramid around the door to the crypt. The preliminary sealing took place on January 23, 2018. Stonemasons from Santa Barbara cut the ashlars that had sat before the open door for more than 100 years.

On June 22, 2018 King David's Lodge hosted a ceremony to seal the final seam. In attendance were Grand Master Bruce Galloway, several Grand Lodge officers, and members of King David's Lodge; San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon; members of the Dorn and Russell families; the San Luis Obispo city historian; California Polytechnic State University faculty and students; and members of the public.
















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