We’ve added the Masonic Temple to our “must see” list, and you should too! Even if you’ve never heard of the Masonic Temple, you’ve most likely walked right past it or seen its medieval tower in the Philadelphia skyline right next to City Hall. I suppose you can’t quite call it a “secret garden” since the grand, cathedral-like building is in plain sight, but the hidden architectural gem inside houses seven Mason lodge halls packed with detail and awe. I guess it makes sense, as Masons are known as master builders. We are lucky enough to have a Grand Master in the PHG family, husband of our rental expert, Lisette Tarragano, who set us up with an excellent tour. We’ve picked out our favorite parts:
Many architectural styles
Both the exterior and interior of the building were completed by different architects and it melds into one of the great “wonders” of the Masonic world. Built in 1873, the exterior construction took five years from its start in 1868 to complete. The interior took another fifteen years to finish. This all cost the grand sum of $1.6 million which at today’s value would be over $36 million. Hopefully Lisette can get the listing when they decide to sell. ;)
Each lodge hall was made to mimic what the Masons believed to be the best architecture from around the world: Renaissance, Ionic, Oriental, Corinthian, Gothic, Egyptian, and Norman.
If you don’t know what all those are, don’t worry, you get a sort of crash course while you’re there. Every wall and ceiling in the Temple holds a significance and is made with numerous types of craftsmanship, showcasing technique and substance.
Upon entering you are welcomed by a grand staircases that seems to go on forever, right into a jali style layered star ceiling. There are plaster walls painted to look like wood, sculptures painted to look like marble, and endless hand-carved detail on wooden chairs. Our favorite was the ceiling with backlit etched stars to make it seem like you are under the night’s sky.
We were lucky enough to be given a private tour by a past “Master”, don’t ask us what that really means, but he translated art into information. The tour touches on their ceremonies and the rituals they follow but the vibe is too secretive to expand on who, what, when where, and especially why. They are a secular movement that believe in a “Grand or Great Architect” but do not have clear guidelines or talk about a God in traditional religious terms. There are a pile of conspiracy theories online about secret societies with Author, Dan Brown, pouring gasoline on top of said pile, after taking the tour we are none the wiser as to how these play into Freemasonry.
The main takeaways from our tour were that the building is a stunning treasure our city is fortunate to enjoy, and the Mason’s do a lot of charitable work aimed at helping Philadelphians. We can support that! Aside from tours, they also host weddings. What a perfectly romantic, grand backdrop for a wedding!
Tours are generally Tuesday through Saturday at 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 3:00 PM. There are sometimes no tours during special events and holidays so check their Facebook page before you go.