Photos: From the Historic American Buildings Survey. HABS PA-51-PHILA-742-1 (L) and 742-2 (R)
In 1867, Philadelphia's
Masonic leaders commissioned architect and fellow Mason James H. Windrim
to design a new temple for the city's brotherhood. The cornerstone for
the new structure was laid at an elaborate ceremony on June 27, 1868,
using a gavel that reportedly had belonged to George Washington.
the entire block …[and extending] 250 feet from Broad Street
to Juniper Street and 150 feet from Filbert street to Cuthbert Street….Over
the southwest corner of the Temple rises a tower of antique design
two hundred and fifty feet above the ground. The structure has two
fronts, one on Broad street, and the other on Filbert street, the
material being used in their construction being a Cape Ann ayenite
of a grayish-white color, which gives the building a look of solidity
and permanence being furnished by few other stones. The eastern and
northern fronts on Juniper and Cuthbert streets are built of Fox Island
granite from the coast of Maine, a stone differing very little in
color from the other fronts. The architecture of the building, surmounted
by its three unique towers pointing upward, is thoroughly pleasing.
On the Broad street front, the prominent portions are the two grand
towers on either flank, and the beautiful Norman porch or doorway.
Three days of elaborate processions and ceremonies accompanied the Temple's dedication on September 26, 1873, with The Inquirer noting, “That Peace, not less than war, has its victories, was strikingly exemplified in the great Masonic jubilee which yesterday drew thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children gathered from not only our own city but from town and country, in every direct, for hundred, aye, even thousands of miles.”
The Temple was James Windrim's second major project in the Philadelphia area. Only twenty-eight when he received the commission, Windrim was a member of Girard College's first graduating class, and had received his early training as draftsman for John Notman's Holy Trinity Church on Rittenhouse Square. He helped to supervise the construction of Samuel Sloan's Episcopal Hospital, and, following the completion of Masonic Temple, went on to design other major structures in Philadelphia, including the Academy of the Natural Sciences (19th and Race Streets; 1872), the Centennial Agricultural Hall (1876), the Western Fund Savings Society (10th and Walnut Streets), and the Richard Smith Memorial Gateway in Fairmount Park (1897). Windrim served as supervising architect of the United States from 1889 until 1891, and, from 1981, as the Director for Public Works in Philadelphia.
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