Ahead of Bisbee’s Pythian Castle renovation, a brief history of Knights of Pythias


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BISBEE, Ariz. (Originally Feb 1,2016) In 2015, Alfred X. Strati began working to renovate the historic Pythian Castle at 29 Ok Street in Bisbee. Prior to the effort to revitalize the building, the castle had most recently been used as apartments, following several decades of neglect. However, the space was originally created for the purpose of providing a meeting place for the Order of Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization with chapters across the country and beyond.

Founded in Washington D.C., by Justus H. Rathbone, the Knights of Pythias was a secret society comprised of noteworthy and prominent figures. Throughout its existence, the Order has counted among its membership some notable individuals, including former Presidents William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Norman A. Rockefeller, as well as a number of Supreme Court Justices, Senators, and Governors.

The name of the organization was derived from a play by the Irish poet John Banim about the Greek mythological tale of Damon and Pythias, a duo of friends whose demonstrable brotherly love makes an impression upon Dionysius.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.09.55 AMBy the time the Knights arrived in Bisbee, they were less a secret society than they had been at the time of their inception in 1864. Instead, they were a publicly recognizeddebaucher muheim bisbee fraternal organization, known to the community by their credo, which is as follows:

“The Order is founded upon naught but the purest and sincerest motives. Its aim is to alleviate the suffering of a brother, succor the unfortunate, zealously watch at the bedside of the sick, soothe the pillow of the dying, perform the last sad rites at the grave of a brother; offering consolation to the afflicted and caring, with all a brother’s love, for the widow and orphan.

BROTHERLY LOVE AND CHARITY are the Pillars on which it rests; Friendship and Truth the bond and surety of its preservation. PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.”

Among the Knights in Bisbee, Judge Charles Strong was particularly interested in building a place where the fraternity could assemble and socialize. He enlisted the help of Joseph M. Muheim, heir to the Dubacher fortune and owner of Brewery Saloon, as well as local contractor E.G. Ord, and B. Careto, operator of the Arlington Hotel, to make such a place a reality.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.22.51 AMIn 1904, the Pythian Castle opened its doors to the Knights of Pythias who subsequently rented out a room on the second floor to a local mining union. Eventually, relations between the Knights and the miners became tense, and the former began meeting in a new location, leaving the latter to take over the remaining space on the top floor.

The Knights of Pythias still exist today. The organization boasts nearly 2,000 lodges across the United States and around the world. However, like the Pythian Castle in Bisbee, a number of the original structures have fallen into disrepair or have been re-appropriated for other purposes.

Knights of Pythias members (from left to right) Don Appleton, Kenneth Thornton, Richard Blankenmier, Keith Almand and Bernard "Red" Hollander.

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