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15th and S Street, NW

Thanks to MD, Jonathan and John for sending and update on the status of Masonic Temple Development: “equipment has arrived and part of the fence and decorative shrubbery is being removed.”

Nick asks:

“I noticed some construction going on behind the Freemason Temple on 16th street. I know there’s been a push to build apartments/condos on that property – to which the neighborhood has been against. Curious if anyone knows if the complex got approved or if the construction/landscaping is unrelated.”

MD sends some renderings for what had been planned: Read More

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Streets of Washington, written by John DeFerrari, covers some of DC’s most interesting buildings and history. John is the author of Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats, published by the History Press, Inc. and also the author of Lost Washington DC.

The iconic Masonic Temple building on the northwest corner of 9th and F Streets NW was the first major private building to be constructed downtown after the Civil War, and it was an extraordinary achievement. Richly decorated inside and out and with a grand ballroom on the second floor, it was one of the city’s important cultural centers when it first opened its doors in 1869. The building had many lives, including as a bastion of the temperance movement in the early years of the 20th century and later as a furniture store. It would also become the first major building to be successfully protected by the District’s Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978.

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The old Masonic Temple on the northwest corner of 9th and F Streets NW (photo by the author).

The building was constructed as the headquarters for the local Grand Lodge of Masons. Freemasonry is a centuries-old tradition descended from medieval stone masons’ guilds that evolved into a strictly fraternal order dedicated to benevolent acts. Masons organize themselves into lodges, which are chartered by regional Grand Lodges. Masons were first active in Washington in the late 18th century and formed a Grand Lodge here in 1811. By the mid 19th century they were using a hall at 9th and D Streets NW and needed a larger, more prestigious building to house their meeting hall and headquarters. In 1864, as the Civil War raged, Congress gave them a charter to acquire and develop a site for a new hall. The association purchased the 9th and F Streets lot in 1865 and began raising funds to construct the building. The project was run strictly as a for-profit business, with funds raised by the sale of stock. Stockholders would earn income from rental of the building’s public spaces on the first and second floors. Read More

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Streets of Washington, written by John DeFerrari, covers some of DC’s most interesting buildings and history. John is the author of Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats, to be published this September by the History Press, Inc. John is also the author of Lost Washington DC.

One of the stateliest private buildings in Washington is the old Masonic Temple at 13th Street and New York Avenue NW, completed in 1908 and now home to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Like other Masonic temples, the imposing structure was built with unique cross purposes; it was meant to be both a public forum for lectures and performances as well as a private place for the fraternal order’s meetings and rituals. Since the 1980s, this distinctive Renaissance Revival palace has had a remarkably fitting second life as a museum, and now the NMWA is looking to preserve the building for many more years with much-needed roof repairs. As a participant in the Partners in Preservation program, the museum will be hosting a festive open house this Sunday, May 5, from 12 to 5, offering a great, free opportunity to see this extraordinary building up close and appreciate the art it now displays.

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Photo by the author.

The sharp-eyed visitor will notice decorative touches denoting the building’s original use as a Masonic Temple. Freemasonry is a centuries-old tradition descended from medieval stone masons’ guilds, although modern masons are a strictly fraternal order dedicated to benevolent acts. Masons organize themselves into lodges, which are chartered by regional Grand Lodges. DC got its own Grand Lodge in the mid 19th century. In 1870 it built a temple, still standing, at 9th and F Streets NW, but by the 1890s, with 49 Masonic lodges chartered throughout the city, the old hall was no longer adequate. The Masons resolved to build a magnificent new temple at a suitably prestigious location.

The site selection committee received some 20 offers for sites all around the city, and in 1899 they chose the distinctive trapezoidal corner lot formed by New York Avenue, 13th Street, and H Street NW, a prominent location that would allow unobstructed vistas of the new temple on three sides. The lot, once a knoll with a clump of trees known as “Seven Oaks,” cost $115,000.

Continues after the jump. Read More

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Thanks to Jon for sharing:

“I was renovating a closet in my Adams Morgan row house and found this jammed behind the shelf. It’s a $2.50 ticket from 1963 to a midnight party with jazz band, Bobby Felder and The Blue Notes, at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple on U (ahem, You) St.

Robert “Bobby” Felder went on to become a music professor at UDC and I found this recent interview with him on YouTube” Read More

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rendering by Hickok Cole

More info on the proposed development coming next to the Scottish Rite/Masonic Temple at 15th and S Street, NW from EagleBank:

“EagleBank, one of the largest community banks in the Washington, D.C. area, today announced that it provided financing to support the construction of a luxury apartment complex in Northwest Washington, D.C.’s 16th Street Historic District. The project is a joint venture led by Perseus TDC and equity partner Allstate Insurance Company.

EagleBank’s loan offering will fund a significant portion of total project costs, allowing Perseus TDC to construct a five-story, 158-unit luxury apartment building with an underground parking garage for both residents and Scottish Rite Temple patrons. Read More

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