Philadelphia Masonic Temple
Northeast Corner Broad and Filbert Streets
Built 1868-73
James H. Windrim ( 1840-1919)

 



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.

Intended to recall the grandeur of King Solomon's legendary temple and envisioned as  “the wonder of the Masonic world,” the building took more than five years and cost more than a million dollars to complete. As the dedication date approached, excitement in Philadelphia mounted, with The Philadelphia Inquirer publishing a series of articles about the new temple and the upcoming ceremonies. An article on September 25, 1873 described the building as:

 [Occupying] 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. 

The porch-is the most elaborate and costly work of its kind in the country. It is built of Quincy granite and stands in a projection of the front wall and is made up of four pairs of receding pillars surmounted by arched semicircular mouldings, between which three steps ascend into the building. The pillars and mouldings are enriched by beautiful Norman decorations. The pedimental top of the porch, usually found in Norman architecture, is provided here so as to give depth for jambs and arches of several receding orders.

Although the article noted that the building's interiors “defy descriptions,” it continued with a summary of the eclectic interior scheme created for the building by designer George Herzog (who also created interiors for Philadelphia's City Hall). The temple featured seven halls, each in a different style: Corinthian, Ionic, Italian Renaissance, Norman, Gothic, Oriental or Egyptian. In the Egyptian Hall sat the grand master's throne, which, according to a Masonic souvenir album, is flanked by twin sphinxes.

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. 


Sources Cited:

  • Souvenir Album: Masonic Temple, One North Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Other Places of Meeting of the R.W. Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of the Free and Accepted Masons of Philadelphia and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging. Philadelphia: 1974.
  • Huss, Wayne A. The Master Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania Vol 1: 1731-1873. Philadelphia: Grand Lodge F & A.M. of Pennsylvania, 1986.
  • Tatum, George B. Penn's Great Town. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961.
  • Teitelman, Edward, and Richard W. Longstreth. Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974
  • Webster, Richard J. Philadelphia Preserved. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976.
  • “The Masonic Brethern,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25, 1873.
  • “The New Temple,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 27, 1873.
  • “The Knightly Pageant,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 1, 1873.
  • Poppeliers, John C. “The 1867 Philadelphia Masonic Temple Compeition," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, December 1967.
  • Historic American Buildings Survey HABS/HAER/HALS Database: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/
  • National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form for New York Mutual Life Insurance Company. (Available on ARCH: Pennsylvania's Historic Architecture and Archaeology, National Historic Landmarks and National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Historic Places: http://www.arch.state.pa.us/
  •  Philadelphia Architects and Buildings web site: http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/pj_display.cfm/17394





For additional information and references, see the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings web site: 
http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/pj_display_citations_holdings.cfm/17394