The Masonic Temple, also called Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania , located in Philadelphia is a historic Masonic building built in 1873. The Masonic Temple is home to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Many of America’s Founding Fathers were Freemasons. The Masonic Temple is a National Historic Landmark and also was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
Masonic Temple History
In 1867 the masons of Philadelphia purchased a lot for the construction of a Masonic Temple. They selected a young freemason, James Windrim, as the architect. The new temple was to reflect all the architectural styles of the Freemason’s mystic ancestors of Egypt, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Scotland and England. The result was a building like none other, one that has been continuously acclaimed by architectural experts throughout the world.
Construction began when the massive granite 10 tons cornerstone was leveled on St. John the Baptist’s Day in 1868 . During the height of Masonic wealth and influence , having massive amounts of money to spend and extensive political influence in Philadelphia, the Masons held nothing back. Each room was decorated in a highly ornate style. Besides a massively grand staircase, the temple contains an Egyptian room, a Corinthian room, a Moorish room, a Renaissance hall, a Norman hall in Rhenish Romanesque style, and the Ionic hall, with full-length portraits of “Right Worshipful Past Grand Masters,” among others. In 1873, the New York Times described it as “the largest, costliest, and most magnificent structure consecrated to Masonry in the World.” It is said that every room has had one mistake purposefully inserted to show that no man is perfect compared to God.
Interesting to know is that both George Washington and Benjamin Franklin found themselves drawn to the organization , which allowed them a great deal of networking. The Masonic movement in Philadelphia existed long before US was even founded.
The stone Norman-style exterior of the building comes from several sources and makes it one of the great architectural wonders of the City of Philadelphia. The main façade is of Cape Ann Syenite and the exteriors are fashioned from Fox Island granite. The stones were cut, squared, marked and numbered at the quarries and brought to the temple to be put together. The tall, medieval style tower is prominent on the Philadelphia skyline and soars to more than 250 feet tall (76 meter), with foundations that are located about 31 feet (9.5 meter) below ground level.
Inside, the temple houses seven lodge halls that were designed to capture the seven “ideal” architectures, according to Free Masonry. These are Renaissance, Ionic, Oriental, Corinthian, Gothic, Egyptian, and Norman. No expense was spared in the decoration of these meeting halls, which feature magnificent murals, ornate furniture, and much more. Most are long with high, ornamented ceilings and were built in strict conformity with the principles of each architectural style. Even the staircases are breathtaking works of art. The most famous of these room is the Egyptian Hall, designed in 1889 after the temples of Luxor in Egypt. The decorations even include accurate hieroglyphics.
The Masonic Temple receives thousands of visitors every year who visit the magnificent building including its seven ornate lodge rooms, where today a number of Philadelphia lodges and the Grand Lodge conduct their meetings. These days because of the lack of funds , the Masons are struggling to pay for the upkeep of the massive building, and the halls can be rented out for weddings and other various non-Masonic events.