The Masonic Temple
1 North Broad Street
The Masonic Temple at 1 North Broad Street, built between 1868 and 1873, is the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, at the same time as construction was begun on City Hall. The front gates are an imposing 17 feet high and seven feet wide. The architecture has aspects of Norman, Gothic, Italian Renaissance and other styles. The Temple even has a room meant to emulate Ancient Egypt. The Temple’s design comes from Brother James H. Windrim who was a member of Philadelphia Lodge 72.
The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest Grand Lodges in the country dating back to at least the 1730s, even if records about the first Grand Master are scarce. It is also the only lodge in the US to have over 100,000 members as of 2014. Although membership used to be limited to masons by trade, now it is open to all professions. Membership is limited, however, to adult men who believe in a “higher power” and who have “a good moral character.” All Freemasons join of their own desire, and Grand Lodges operate independently of each other. Masons value the “golden rule” and virtue, and the reason for belief in a higher power comes from the Masons’ belief that morality and monotheism are linked. They also value the pursuit of knowledge in sciences and arts. The Masons hold their organization outside politics.
The Temple in Philadelphia houses a Masonic Library and Museum. The library collections are in the process of being uploaded online, including items from the library at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown. The museum has many artifacts related to Masonry, such as an apron owned by George Washington, who was a member of the Freemasons. The museum also has two letters by the man. The staff gives tours of the artwork in the Temple.
Other smaller groups of Masons also use the Temple as their monthly meeting ground. Its status as a Historic Landmark help keeps the building refurbished. NBC’s show “Allegiance” filmed two episodes in the Temple, which was the focus of those two episodes.
The Freemasons run youth programs dedicated to helping less fortunate children take vacations to places like Hersheypark and go to college. The Masonic Children’s Home covers college costs a few students’ every year while also providing computers to help them do research on colleges and complete their schoolwork. The Masons awarded 55 students a total of $125,500 in scholarships in 2014. Masonic youth programs also contribute to various organizations, such as the Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment and the Children’s Dyslexia Centers. Youth groups collect food for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. The Masonic Conference Center – Patton Campus in Elizabethtown - hosts LifeSkills in the summer in which around 100 kids undergo physical, emotional, and mental challenges in order to gain valuable experience.
The Freemasons also run nursing homes for Masons in Pennsylvania called Masonic Villages. These villages are the 20th biggest senior living organization in the nation of 2014. In 2014, the village in Warminster, PA, received the Excellence in Heath Care Compliance award from the state for having three years of deficiency-free surveys from the Department of Health. Only six facilities in the state received this award.
The Villages take the seniors on trips to places like the Philadelphia Zoo and Ringling Brothers. Circus. The villages also provide hearing aids to seniors who need them to ensure that they are involved in activities. If the person needs it, the villages can loan out some medical equipment. Seniors living in these villages do not have to pay for these services. The costs are covered by donations to the Masonic Compassionate Care Fund.
The Masonic Temple in Philadelphia across its many years is a beacon for Masons across Pennsylvania. The Masons who use this temple as a meeting place give back to their community. They provide many of the things needed to prosper in the modern age to their members. This Temple indeed hosts a “Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons.”