1 N. Broad St., 215/988-1900
HOURS: Mon.–Fri. tours at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.,
Sat. tours at 10 and 11 a.m. Sept.–June, call ahead
COST: Library and museum entrance fee: $3; tour (including library and museum): $8 adult, $6 student, $5 child, senior, and freemason, $20 families of four or more
The Masonic Temple is a magnificent work of art and architecture both inside and out—as it should be, considering the giant fraternity house is built for and by masons. While the masons of today represent practically every profession, the earliest members were highly skilled stoneworkers.
Completed in 1873, the temple designed by James Windrim took five years to complete. The interior was decorated under the supervision of artist George Herzog over a 20-year period.
Seven spectacular meeting rooms stand as a tribute to the seven “ideal” forms of architecture. Oriental Hall replicates parts of the Alhambra; Gothic Hall is a tribute to the European Knights Templar made famous in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code; and Egyptian Hall is adorned with hieroglyphics so accurate that archaeology students from University of Pennsylvania sometimes visit to study them.
Other styles include Renaissance, Ionic, Corinthian, and Norman, and each room is more fascinating and breathtaking than the one before.
Look for one intentional mistake in the design of each room, placed there to acknowledge that only God is perfect and all man’s work is flawed.
Paintings of former Masonic Grand Masters, including Ben Franklin and George Washington, line the grand staircase and hallways. Hand-painted wooden sculptures by William Rush, the “father of American sculpture,” are also on display. The library and museum contain artifacts galore from early masons, including George Washington’s Masonic apron.
The Grand Lodge of England (GLE) was founded in 1717 and spread to the U.S. colonies by the 1730s, making Freemasonry the oldest continuous fraternal organization in the world. It is shrouded in mystery and many practices are known only to members. The Masonic Temple remains the meeting place for 28 different groups.
Knowledgeable and friendly tour guides are willing to share information about many aspects of the history of the masons, but don’t bother asking them to reveal their secrets, or explain why women are still not admitted to the group—believe me, I tried.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition