The Philadelphia Masonic Temple, Library, and Museum
Philadephia is an architecture lover’s delight: from Horace Trumbauer’s more classical Greek stylings of the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library to the more eclectic Frank Furness buildings like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts or the colonial flair of Old City, there are amazing discoveries around every corner for those who love the built environment. While there are many that I love, perhaps my favorite building for sheer opulence is one of the most overlooked by tourists: the Philadelphia Masonic Temple, Library, and Museum, which sits across the street from City Hall.
The Masonic Temple’s imposing exterior was designed by James Windrim in the Norman style and resembles an ornate church or castle – but the interior, designed by George Herzog, is still more elaborate than anything you’d expect. It was, in fact, recognized as one of the most impressive works of Masonic architecture, and from the date the cornerstone was laid in 1868, it would take 34 years before the interior was finished.
It’s hard to describe the interior without superlatives. Every room of the building in the tour is a marvel – the meeting rooms are done in different styles, including Norman, Egyptian, Ionic, Renaissance, Gothic, and Oriental. Each alone would be worth visiting the temple for, and it is nothing short of stunning to see so many grouped together in one location. The staircases and halls are adorned with statues, frescoes, and painted medallions depicting Masonic symbolism and the history of Philadelphia and the world. The Masonic Museum on the first floor includes relics from noteworthy Masons including George Washington’s apron and Benjamin Franklin’s sash.
It’s quite possible that the fact that the Masonic Temple’s status as a lesser-known treasure is because non-Masons expect that they will not be able to enter the building, but five daily tours are offered Tuesdays through Saturdays, and they are well worth the admission fee. For prices and tour times visit pamasonictemple.org/
Matthew Christopher PA Philadelphia Feb 17, 2022 Architecture History
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Matthew Christopher Feb 17, 2022
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