The Knights Templar Convention brought 2,000 members to Watertown, NY (1911)
Following the 1910 State Firemen’s Convention, the Knights Templar Convention wasted little time lining up Watertown to host its Statewide convention the following year in 1911. The Firemen’s convention, accompanied by the circus, drew over 30,000 people from all over the northeast, and the hopes were that the 98th annual conclave of the Grand Commandery, Knights Templar, of the State of New York would top that.
Planning would begin in early January, at which time the local Watertown Commandery, No. 11, had already obtained sufficient funding to ensure a reception for the convention, which was thought to be one of the largest and most successful conclaves in years. The entirety of the affair was financed by local members of the Masonic fraternity.
With large crowds anticipated for June 20th, the police department would staff 40 officers for patrol that day, well above their 16 own patrols. The city would tap into other local communities for support, including 12-15 policemen from Syracuse. All officers on duty would be uniformed, with a number mounted to help keep crowds in order throughout the day. It’s perhaps not a coincidence, but the new New York Central passenger terminal opened in the city mere days before, on June 15th, and reportedly easily handled the traffic.
Over 2,000 men from around the State of New York, members of the masonic Knights Templar, descended on the town, which spent $7,000 and several weeks preparing for the event. Public Square would be adorned with the same illuminated columns that were used the previous year. In addition, over 18,000 incandescent lamps would be used in string lighting and set pieces, including locations on side streets, the Knight on the Woodruff Hotel, an Eagle symbol, and the State Armory, where the Templar Ball was held with over 400 couples.
The parade itself would be called “Most brilliant affair of its kind ever seen in Watertown – line of march four miles in length” by the Daily Times. “Such a spectacle was never before witnessed in the North Country,” they would remark of the culmination of the 98th annual conclave of the Grand Commandery, Knights Templar, of the state of New York. At times, the crowd bursting into cheer drowned out 200 instruments playing as part of the parade.
With tens of thousands of potential customers descending on Downtown and the vicinity, local merchants were eager to greet them with a neighboring welcome and deals that would shake their wallet’s hands if they were to have any. Places like Empsall’s and Lebovsky’s would take out large advertisements offering deep discounts on goods and services.
The Watertown Daily Times would report the following day, “Carthage Deserted During Conclave. Nearly Everyone Came To City To See Parade.” When it was all said and done, the Times would remark–
There have been larger conventions, ’tis true, and in years gone by there has been more of a Mardi Gras spirit abroad during convention weeks–more confetti throwing, more fancy costuming, more amusing stunts, ad all that sort of thing–but Watertown has never entertained a convention in which a greater dignity prevailed and in which there was a greater evidence of the real true spirit of hospitality evidenced than in the conclave which closed today. It was a high class affair in every particular.