Philadelphia Masonic Temple

Philadelphia Masonic Temple

The folks came to visit in January of 2007 and since we tried and missed it last time, we decided to hit the Masonic Temple again this time around. And it worked! Much like missing the Tower Tour last year, I guess 2006 just wasn't our year. Anyway... I wasn't all that aware of exactly what it was or was used for, but I knew it looked awesome on the outside and had some really cool stuff on the inside (of which I saw glimpses on their website). I had a feeling my folks would dig it, and I wanted to check it out, too.

I actually took this picture back in July of 2004. This is what the temple looks like from the outside. All of the ones I took on this trip are of the inside of the various rooms and decor of the temple (and our tour guide). I had taken yet another picture of the outside of the temple back in 2003 and thought it was a church of some kind. I have heard the term "mason" before and that a bunch of the founding fathers were masons (I thought it was some kind of religious group back in the old days) and figured the building was some kind of a gathering place for whomever the members were, and "temple" has religions overtones in my mind, so I thought it was a religious building. It looks like it should be! My original picture file of the 2003 photo is called "citychurch".

We waited for our tour to begin in their library, and it had some awesome artifacts (including a piece of the original wooden coffin that housed George Washington's body. creepy!) and a lot of stuff about Benjamin Franklin. Both Washington and Franklin were masons. Still didn't quite figure out what exactly that meant by just hanging out in the library. The range of their collection was crazy, from ancient gavels to centuries-old books to fine china to swords and all kindsa shit. We finally were summoned for our tour by our guide, who was incidentally the guy who we bought our tickets from. I thought he was just the ticket guy. (He gave us the family discount, which I didn't know existed, and it saved me $17!) Our tour began in a room adjacent to the library, and this picture is of the super-elaborate ceiling. Damn.

The tour guy was a strange one right off the bat. He gathered us up for the tour and seemed to intimate a sense of urgency, and then subsequently spent a generous amount of time counting up the ticket totals (which were done by number of people in a group per ticket, not single tickets - we had one ticket that said "5") and then counting the people in the group to make sure they matched. He started talking about tour etiquette and even motioned towards Tristan directly about making sure we kept track of him. Thanks. He would make strange jokes and lean in towards specific people when making comments, which prompted one woman to ask that he stay where her deaf mother could see him because she had to read his lips. He almost seemed put off by that because he started making excuses about the things he was saying being needless or unnecessary and then the woman said something to the effect of "well if she breaks a rule, it won't be her fault that she couldn't hear you". Weird, weird beginning. We rolled out and ran smack into a large hallway with this massive staircase (the "rear" staircase). The portraits are all of past Grand Masters. A good number of my pictures are sort of blurry like this; he made mention of the fact that picture taking was fine, but he also bluntly said "don't lag behind" or something to that effect. I was trying to be quick and paid for it. We didn't go up the stairs.

Each of the halls has its own theme. But each room is identical in structure except for the decor. They each have the same purpose, in that each is just a different version of the same room for any Freemason meeting or ceremony; they're called Lodge Rooms. On one end of the room is a set of seven special chairs where the head honchos sit. And I think the secretary and treasurer sit at the chairs that have desks.

On the other end of each room is a set of 4 chairs. I forget who sits there; some other important members. These are from Oriental Hall, decorated in 1896. The other themed rooms: Gothic, Ionic, Egyptian, Norman, Corinthian and Renaissance. We found out shortly into the tour that each guide is in fact a Mason himself. And that it's essentially a big club of dudes who like to talk. No women allowed. They're not allowed to discuss politics or religion. So, basically they just talk about chicks. Not really. They have some kind of secret initiation ceremony or some other secrets of some kind. He didn't make a big deal about it. A quote I saw online stated that "It's not a secret society, but a society with secrets." Alrighty. You can read below the last picture for much more information on what a Mason is.

We wheeled back around and passed the room where the tour started and saw it from the other side of the doors. The Ben Franklin room is basically a lounge (the library connects to the right). Those doors weigh ONE TON EACH, and they're bronze. Yikes.

We took the elevator up to the third floor and I took this picture looking down onto the second floor. Too blurry, but a nice view.

This is a picture of Gothic Hall, on the third floor. I think it was my favorite room. This structure is in the middle of each room. It has a three-pronged torch-thingy (each one standing for something) and a small table which is used for kneeling. I think that's how you get initiated. Each room also has a set of pews on each side, for general members to sit (seen here on the left). Gothic's special set of 4 chairs is in the upper part of this photo (the super-special set of 7 would then be on the other end). All the furniture in Gothic was hand carved. Craziness. Also probably my sharpest photo of the bunch.

We went down and paused on the second floor in front of the rear staircase, where I "lagged behind" a bit to take this crappy picture. You can see my dad on the far left (hand on rail), Tristan (yellow-hooded sweatshirt sticking out) and my mom on the right (in jeans with cream-colored coat). Steph is next to Tristan but you can't see her. Our crackpot guide is in the middle.

At the west end of the second floor above the Grand Staircase is this crazy stained glass ensemble. It faces Broad Street, and I quote: "depicts Holy Ground and the Burning Bush when Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. At the top is a traditional rose window, with the many emblems of the Masonic Fraternity." OK, then. I took a close-up of the window later on.

Our beloved guide (by this point he was cracking everyone up with his wise-ass remarks - and sometimes unintentional - dry wit) in Ionic Hall, decorated in 1890. There were a couple of French folks on our tour and he kept making fun of them, for being French!

Ionic's super-special set of 7 chairs. And some very important-looking dudes on the wall.

Ionic's three-torch thing in the middle, with special set of 4 chairs in the background.

Egyptian Hall, furnished in 1889, one of the coolest but for some reason it was very dark and hard to get good pictures. The woman's face on the columns is that of Hathor, goddess of wisdom and love.

The super-special 7 chairs in Norman Hall (and also our guide). The style of this room is "Rhenish Romanesque", circa 1891 and Norman just refers to the rounded-arch style, as opposed to Gothic (which is pointed-arch).

The Guide speaks in Norman.

Special set of 4 chairs in Norman.

And here's the close-up of that stained-glass. Amazing.


Here are some bonus photos from the fam waiting in City Hall to take the Tower Tour:
(this was just prior to our Masonic Temple jaunt)

Mom waits.

Dad waits, too.

Mom & Dad wait, together.

Steph & Tristan wait.

Steph & Tristan wait some more.

We were all hanging out on the top floor of City Hall where the elevator opens up to take you up to the tower. There are a bunch of artifacts and photos and informational signs on the origins and building of City Hall. Pretty interesting stuff. Dad is the only one who really seems into it, though.


Boatloads of Freemason information, from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania:

FREEMASONRY is a charitable, benevolent and educational society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear. Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.

It is charitable in that it is not organized for profit and none of its income inures to the benefit of any individual, but all is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of mankind.

It is benevolent in that it teaches and exemplifies altruism as a duty.

It is educational in that it teaches, by prescribed ceremonials, a system of morality and brotherhood based upon the Sacred Law.

It is religious in that it embraces monotheism, the Holy Bible is open upon its altars whenever a Lodge is in session, reverence for God is ever present in its ceremonial, and to its Brethren are constantly addressed lessons of morality; yet it is not sectarian or theological.

It is a social organization only so far as it furnishes additional inducement that men may forgather in numbers, thereby providing more material for its primary work of education, of worship and charity.

Through the improvement and strengthening of the character of the individual man, Freemasonry seeks to improve the community by making "good" men, "better" men. Thus it impresses upon its Members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, enlightens them as to those things which make for human welfare, and inspires them with that feeling of charity, or good will, toward all mankind which will move them to translate principle and conviction into action.

To that end, it teaches and stands for the worship of God; truth and justice; fraternity and philanthropy; enlightenment and orderly liberty, civil, religious and intellectual. It charges each of its members to be true and loyal to the government of the country to which he owes allegiance and to be obedient to the law of any state in which he may be. It believes that the attainment of these objectives is best accomplished by laying a broad basis of principle upon which men of every race, country, sect and opinion may unite rather than by setting up a restricted platform upon which only those of certain races, creeds and opinions can assemble.

Believing these things, this Grand Lodge affirms its continued adherence to that ancient and approved rule of Freemasonry which forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings, of creeds, politics, or other topics likely to excite personal animosities.

It further affirms its conviction that it is not only contrary to the fundamental principles of Freemasonry, but dangerous to its unity, strength, usefulness and welfare, for Masonic Bodies to take action or attempt to exercise pressure or influence for or against any legislation, or in any way to attempt to procure the election or appointment of governmental officials, or to influence them, whether or not members of the Fraternity, in the performance of their official duties. The true Freemason will act in civil life according to his individual judgment and the dictates of his conscience.


The Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons is the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternal organization in the world. Volumes have been written about it. Yet, to many, Freemasonry remains a mystery.

History - Some historians trace Freemasonry to the Tenth Century, B.C., during the building of King Solomon's Temple. Records reveal that Freemasonry was introduced into England in 926 A.D.

Many other historians believe that Freemasonry is directly descended from the association of operative masons, the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages, who traveled through Europe employing the secrets and skills of their crafts.

In the 17th Century, when cathedral building was on the decline, many guilds of stone-masons, known as "Operative Masons" or "Free Masons," started to accept as members those who were not members of the masons' craft, calling them "speculative Masons" or "Accepted Masons."

It was from these groups, comprised mostly of "Adopted or Accepted Masons," that Symbolic Masonry or Freemasonry, as we know it today, had its beginning. A more recent theory suggests that Freemasonry grew out of the survivors of the destruction of the Order of the Temple in 1314 by King Philip The Fair of France. Many Templars fled France and hid in England, Scotland and Ireland. To maintain their Order, they developed another organization, giving it a legendary ancient history to contribute to its cover from the authorities who wished it destroyed. John Robinson's book, BORN IN BLOOD, is an excellent text describing this theory in detail.

Grand Lodges - In 1717, four Lodges of Freemasons meeting in London, England, formed the first Grand Lodge. The first Grand Lodge chartered Symbolic Lodges and Provincial Grand Lodges in many countries, including the United States.

Today, there are more than 160 Grand Lodges in free countries of the world with a membership of more than 3.6 million. In the United States there are 51 Grand Lodges. There are approximately 1,600,000 Freemasons in the 51 Jurisdictions of the United States.

Symbolic Lodge - The basic unit of all Grand Lodges is the Symbolic Lodge, or "Blue Lodge," as it is commonly known.

It is the Symbolic Lodge that issues petitions for initiation and membership, acts on petitions and confers the three Symbolic Degrees, known as the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason Degrees.

There are more than 430 Symbolic Lodges in the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania with a membership of approximately 130,000.

Membership - Membership is limited to adult males who can meet the recognized qualifications and standards of character and reputation.

A man becomes a Freemason through his own volition. No one is asked to join its ranks. When a man seeks admission to a Symbolic Lodge, it is of his own free will and accord. The choice is his.

One of the customs of Freemasonry is not to solicit members. One seeking admission must have a desire and must request a petition form from one whom he believes to be a Mason.

The petitioner must be recommended by two Master Masons, one of which must be a Member of the Lodge to which he desires to apply and pass a unanimous ballot. The petitioner must be 18 years of age, mentally competent, of good moral character and believe in the existence of a Supreme Being.

Masonic Secrecy - Contrary to what many believe, Freemasonry is not a secret society. It does not hide its existence or its membership.

There has been no attempt to conceal the purpose, aims and principles of Freemasonry. It is an organization formed and existing on the broad basis of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Its constitutions are published for the world to behold. Its rules and regulations are open for inspection.

Freemasonry and Religion - Freemasonry is not a religion even though it is religious in character.

It does not pretend to take the place of religion nor serve as a substitute for the religious beliefs of its members.

Freemasonry accepts men, found to be worthy, regardless of religious convictions. An essential requirement is a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being.

It teaches monotheism. It teaches the Golden Rule. It seeks to make good men better through its firm belief in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.

What Freemasonry Is Not - Freemasonry is not an insurance or beneficial society. It is not organized for profit. However, the charity and services rendered are beyond measure.

Tenets of Freemasonry - The Tenets of Freemasonry are ethical principles that are acceptable to all good men. It teaches tolerance toward all mankind.

It is known throughout the world.

Freemasonry proudly proclaims that it consists of men bound together by bonds of Brotherly Love and Affection.

It dictates to no man as to his beliefs, either religious or secular. It seeks no advantage for its members through business or politics.

Freemasonry is not a forum for discussion on partisan affairs.

A Way of Life - Freemasonry is kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society, fairness in work, pity and concern for the unfortunate, resistance toward evil, help for the weak, forgiveness for the penitent, love for one another, and above all reverence and love for God.

Freemasonry is many things, but, most of all:


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