Monday, July 20, 2009

House of the Temple

Building Collector reader Scott D. researched and wrote the following article about the headquarters building of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Washington D.C. In a few days, I’ll also publish a site report from a recent visit to this building.

“In the heart of the nation's capital, stands one of the city's most beautiful monuments. It's been called a marvel of architecture, a wonder in stone, the spirit of the Scottish Rite captured for a moment in time. The House of the Temple is a Masonic temple in Washington, D.C., United States, which serves as the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A. (officially, "Home of The Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, Washington D.C., U.S.A.") It is located at the corner of 16th Street and S Street in the northwest section of the city. The full and official name of Supreme Council is "The Supreme Council (Mother Council of the World) of the Inspectors General Knights Commander of the House of the Temple of Solomon of the Thirty-third degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America." The Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia was started May 31, 1911 and the cornerstone was laid on October 18, 1911, and the building was completed in 1915. Its architecture is an adaptation of the famous Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” John Russell Pope was only 36 when he was chosen architect. The Temple was his first major work in Washington DC. He later went on to do other works in the District of Columbia, including the National Gallery of Art, National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial. The House of the Temple was his first major commission in the District of Columbia. He was only 36 years old at the time he signed his contract for the building. It was noted in the January 1916 issue of the London Architectural Review noted that “this monumental composition may surely be said to have reached the high-water mark of achievement in that newer interpretation of the Classic style with which modern American architecture is closely identified.” In 1917, Pope’s peers awarded him the Gold Medal of the Architectural League of New York for the design. French Architect Jacques Greber in his L'Architecture aux Etatis-Unis of 1920 described it as “a monument of remarkable sumptuousness …the ensemble is an admirable study of antique architecture stamped with a powerful dignity.” A poll of federal government architect in 1932 still ranked it as one of the ten top buildings in America. The labyrinthine basement contains rooms dedicated to such famous Masons as the Founding Fathers, Burl Ives, J. Edgar Hoover, and a roster of astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin. In a special alcove are the remains of Albert Pike, editor, lawyer, judge, poet, author, and Confederate officer during his 81 years--and a revered Masonic leader. Pike completely rewrote the rituals of Scottish Rite Freemasonry. It’s interesting to note he is the only Confederate General that has a statue in Washington DC. The temple also holds one of the largest collections of Masonic books and minutes, with over 250,000 titles in its library. There have been few architectural alterations since the construction of the building. The House of the Temple has been open to the public for free guided tours since it opened in 1915. The only known Souvenirs of the House of the Temple were the presentation pieces done from 1985-2003 and the one that are currently at the gift shop. I’ve seen the House of the Temple both in 4” tall and 4” wide Lucite pyramids and without. They have a plaque that says it was presented by C. Fred Kleinknecht 33 degree Sovereign Grand Commander. Kleinknecht was active in the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States for 56 year, 18 of them as its Grand Secretary and the final 18 as Sovereign Grand Commander. Mr. Kleinknecht retired in the autumn of 2003. The new souvenir pretty much looks like the same mold was used right down to the black lacquer base. Its 2 ¼” X 3 1/8” and 2” high. At $22 plus the shipping a very nice piece to have. You can order it from the online gift shop. So the next time you’re in Washington, D.C., its well worth a visit to The House of the Temple.” Scott D.

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