Mosaic Lodge #194

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Home From the Historian's Desk Masonic History Masonic Temple Philadelphia

Masonic Temple Philadelphia


One of the wonders of the Masonic world is the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia located at One North Broad Street, in Philadelphia. Since its dedication in 1873, this architectural jewel has attracted hundreds of thousands of Brethren and visitors to the Mother City of Freemasonry in America. Having taken a trip to this magnificent building, I want to share some of its history with you.



On February 22 and July 1, 1867, the land, measuring 150 feet by 250 feet, was purchased for $158,061.64. The architect employed was Brother James H. Windrim, W.M. of Philadelphia Lodge No. 72. He served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1873, the year of the dedication.

Brother Richard Vaux, R.W. Grand Master, laid the Cornerstone on St. John the Baptist Day, June 24, 1868. Approximately 10,000 Brethren attended the ceremony. The Gavel used on this occasion was the same used by Brother George Washington in laying the Cornerstone of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Temple cost $1,569,093.00 excluding decorations and furnishings.

Statue of Liberty Facts
It took five years of skillful labor to build the temple and it was dedicated on Friday, September 26, 1873, the eighty-seventh anniversary of the Independence of the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Pennsylvania.


The magnificent Temple, which is the home of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, is unlike anything in the nation or world. Structural engineers, architects, scholars and artist come away amazed at what their eyes have taken in. The Masonic Temple’s majestic turrets and spires stand out symbolically as they form a part of Philadelphia’s downtown skyline. The massive structure, from its imposing exterior to elaborate interior, has been described as “one of the greatest works of art ever carried on by Masons in any part of the world”.

Brilliant exemplifications of the various orders of architecture are seen in the Temple’s seven Lodge Halls. They are the finest examples of the Corinthian, Ionic, Italian Renaissance, Norman, Gothic, Oriental and Egyptian styles. Egyptian Hall, for example, is called the “only perfect specimen of Egyptian architecture in America”. This room is an exhibit of the greatest wonders left by the ancient builders from the Nile Valley. So perfect are the room’s mystic symbols and designs that scholars come to study them.


The beauty of the Temple’s hallways and stairways awes visitors. The grandeur is enhanced by oil paintings, statues, other works of art and furniture of the richest character. Chandeliers and the glow from some 5,000 light bulbs magnify the brilliance of the interior.

Overlooking the highly polished, marble Grand Staircase is a beautiful stained glass window, which depicts “Holy Ground”. The glass mural portrays “Burning Bush”, where Moses received instructions from God. At the top of the window in circular form are emblems of the Masonic Fraternity. Panels at the base of the window portray the four cardinal virtues – Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.

Statue_Of_Liberty_New_York_Harbor
Besides the seven Lodge Halls, the Temple contains the offices of the Grand Master, Grand Secretary and Grand Treasurer; a distribution center which handles mailing and printing operations; eight committee rooms, seven banquet rooms and kitchen facilities equal to any large hotel.

The Temple also houses the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, which has more than 70,000 volumes. Pa. brethren can borrow many of the books, even by mail. The Museum has one of the finest collections of Masonic treasures in the world. The most priceless possession is Br. George Washington’s Masonic Apron which Madame de Lafayette embroidered, and was presented in August 1784 to Bro. Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette, upon his first visit to America after the Revolution.

The Museum also prizes two of Bro. Washington’s original, handwritten letters. Dated Dec. 27, 1796, they are addressed to “Fellow-citizens and Brothers of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania”. Another treasure is Ben Franklin’s 1734 printing of the 1723 English edition of the “The Constitutions of Free Masons”, the first book of freemasonry printed in America, and consequently, is considered the rarest and most prized Masonic book in this country.

Other items in this priceless collection include a St. Peter’s Lodge notice engraved by Bro. Paul Revere and the Geneva Bible or Breeches Bible, as it is better known imprinted in London, England in 1599.

In addition of Grand Lodge, thirty-two Blue Lodges and eighteen other Masonic Bodies hold their meetings in the Temple. This requires a continuous housekeeping operation by maintenance personnel. They use modern mechanical apparatus and equipment, plus a lot of old-fashioned elbow grease, to keep the immense building practically spotless.

The Temple offers guided tours for the public, Monday thru Friday. Saturday and group tours by request only. This Temple certainly is something everyone should see, and is a worthwhile trip for any family, Lodge or District to consider.

God Bless America – May her light forever shine brightly!

Daniel J. Schultz, PGH.
Masonic Historian

 

 


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