One of the wonders of the Masonic world is the Masonic Temple located at Broad and Filbert Streets, adjacent to City Hall Plaza 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. The magnificent Temple, which is the home of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania, is unlike anything else in the nation, or the world, according to architects and artists, structural engineers and scholars. The majestic turrets and spires of the Masonic Temple stand out symbolically as they form part of Philadelphia’s center city skyline. Freemasonry evolved from a line of Master Builders, and the Temple, from pavement to turret and all through its halls, speaks in the language of architecture. Our mystic ancestors in Egypt, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Scotland and England are all suggested by the designs which distinguish the Lodge rooms.
On July 1, 1867, The Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging purchased the site for the Temple. The plot, 149 by 245 feet, includes a complete block and was purchased for $156,793.16 (Records of the Building Committee of the New Masonic Temple). Brother James H. Windrim, a Member of Philadelphia Lodge No. 72, was the architect. The Temple cost $1,600,000.00 exclusive of decorations and furnishings. The Cornerstone was laid on Saint John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1868, in the northeast corner of the foundation wall by Brother Richard Vaux, Right Worshipful Grand Master. The granite Cornerstone, from the Havre-de-Grace quarries, is five feet 6 1/2 inches long, two feet 4 1/2 inches deep, and four feet 9 1/2 inches wide. It weighs between nine and ten tons. The Gavel used on this occasion was the one Brother George Washington used to lay, with Masonic ceremony, the Cornerstone of the Nation’s Capitol at Washington, D.C., on September 18, 1793.
The Temple was Dedicated on Friday, September 26, 1873, the eighty-seventh anniversary of the independence of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania, by Brother Samuel C. Perkins, Right Worshipful Grand Master. A Masonic parade, divided into twenty-six divisions and including 14,000 marchers, was held in honor of the Dedication. The exterior of the building at Broad and Filbert Streets is of Cape Ann syenite, which takes its name from Syne in Upper Egypt, where it was quarried for monuments by the ancient Egyptians. The Juniper and Cuthbert Street exteriors are of Fox Island granite from the coast of Maine. In accordance with Masonic tradition, the stones were cut, squared, marked and numbered at the quarries and brought to the Temple ready for use.
The two Grand Towers are extremely prominent and are known as the Northwest and Southwest Towers. The height of the Southwest Tower at Broad and Filbert Streets is 250 feet. It was necessary to lay the foundation thirty-one feet below street level.
When you enter the Temple, you come through the Grand Entrance Gate. The architectural style of the Grand Entrance Gate is Norman. The doors are each seventeen feet high, seven feet wide and six inches thick.
The Grand Foyer runs the full length of the building. It is decorated with Doric columns, the oldest, strongest and simplest of the Orders of Grecian architecture. Oil portraits of some of the Right Worshipful Past Grand Masters are hung on these walls.
The Grand Staircase leads to the second floor at the north end of the building. It also leads to Corinthian Hall, the meeting room of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The stairway is made of Tennessee marble. Here you see the Seal of the Grand Lodge, the Great Seal of Pennsylvania and representation of the four cardinal virtues — Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice.
On the walls, all the way up the staircase, are portraits of most of the Past Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge.
High above the Grand Staircase are four large paintings. Demeter of ancient Greek mythology, the goddess of vegetation; “Bringing in the Harvest”; “Woodlands”; and “Group of Singers.” Surrounding the staircase are full-length portraits of Washington, Franklin, LaFayette, and Stephen Girard.
Gothic Hall has all the characteristics of the architectural style for which it is named. The groins, pointed arches, pinnacles and spires appear in every part of the room. The Cross and Crown, emblem of the modern Knights Templar, hangs above the Commander’s throne (a replica of the Archbishop’s throne in Canterbury Cathedral.) The Latin inscription around the emblem means, ‘In this sign you will conquer.’ The pictures on the walls are of Past Grand Commanders. The wainscoting is of oiled pine, and all the furniture is hand-carved.
Renaissance Hall is where the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania and some subordinate Chapters meet. The Hall is decorated in the Italian Renaissance style, and was finished in 1908.
The Grand Banquet Hall is one of the most-used rooms in the Masonic Temple. The room can seat up to five hundred people. The hall features the Composite style of architecture. Portraits decorate the walls, while the floor is laid in small tile patterns.
The style of Norman Hall, finished in 1891, is Rhenish Romanesque. The term ‘Norman’ is indiscriminately used for round-arch architecture, such as is found here.
The Corinthian Hall features were finished in 1903. It is decorated in strict conformity with the principles of Grecian classical architecture.
Oriental Hall was decorated in 1896, in the Moorish, or Saracenic, style. The colors and decorations were copied from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, a 13th Century castle.
Egyptian Hall was finished in 1889. It is decorated in the style of the Nile Valley. Twelve huge columns stand on the four sides of the room, surmounted by capitals peculiar to the Temples of Luxor, Karnak, Philae and others. The furniture also is in Egyptian style. The Worshipful Master’s throne is gilded ebony; the pedestal is flanked by sphinxes.
I end this beautiful article with photographs of the Temple’s exterior renovation done in 2008.
SOURCE: The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania