Friday, March 31, 2006

Architecture Friday: Masonic Temple

Since I work in downtown Philadelphia and I like some of the buildings, I'd like to research them and write about them here on occasional Fridays.
The last AF visited the Arch Street Methodist Church and now we are working our way around Center Square next door to the Masonic Temple.

Architecture Friday: Masonic Temple
Location: 1 North Broad St Philadelphia, Pa
Architect: James Hamilton Windrim
Construction: 1868-1873
Style: Norman-Romanesque

While this looks like a place where sheep are sacrificed to unknown gods or a cathedral of some unknown sect or a pagan temple, this building is really just a meeting place for the Free and Accepted Masons which are closer to the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo than to any animal sacrificing occult organization.

In 1867 a competition was held with four Architectural firms for the new Masonic Temple on the corner of Broad and Filbert Streets to replace a building on Chestnut between 7th and 8th streets. The four firms included the Architects John MacAuthur Jr, the architect of Philadelphia's City Hall and James H Windrim, a free mason.

The truly ironic fact is the Free Masons were a secret organization when this building was built and what better way to have secret organization that to have gigantic castle on one of the busiest corners in the City of Philadelphia.

The chosen Windrim design includes pinnacles on each corner of the building including two towers in the front elevation, five stories and seven stories respectively. The exterior is granite ashlar. The design includes buttressess and balconies around the windows and large stained glass window in the center hall of the building.

It is the interior where this building shines. Seven meeting halls each adorned in a specific ancient architectural style are on each of the three interior floors. The seven halls are Oriental, Gothic, Ionic, Egyptian Norman, Renaissance and Corithian.

Above is Renaissance Hall.

The arrangement of each hall is roughly the same. In the front on a raised platform there is a throne surrounded by smaller thrones on staired platforms. In the back, facing inward there is number of smaller, single seats and on the left and right side are benches or pews. In the center of each hall is a two man kneeler that face each other across a padded bench and there are three large candle sticks. The candlesticks are in a right triangle.

While is seems almost like a religious building, it is in fact a social hall. Free masons today are simply men in a club. Some of the orders of freemasonry are in fact Christiann such as the knights of the templar and theScottishh order, many are open to any male. They are really pissed about the DaVinci Code and our guide spoke of Dan Browns current troubles of plagiarism with glee.

As even weirder aside, apparently the French free masons are the wackiest of the bunch. They are very politically connected and motivated and are in fact atheists.

Look here to see the official page on the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons.

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