The House of the Temple
House of the Temple is the name of the headquarters of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction. The building is located in Washington D.C.
– Source: Masonicdictionary.com
The House of the Temple
By the Editor
WITH ceremonies solemn and impressive, yet simple in spirit and eloquent in form, the new House of the Temple was dedicated in Washington city, October 18th, the home of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in its Southern Jurisdiction. It was a lovely day, and more than five thousand people, including distinguished Masons from all over the country, witnessed the consecration of one of the most unique and imposing buildings on this continent – at once a monument to the founders of the Order and an emblem of the influence and power of the Rite. As the Grand Prior sprinkled the oil, consecrating the Temple to “Mutual Concession, Charitable Judgment, and Toleration,” a White Dove flew from across the street, entered the building, then returned to the bright sunlight amid the acclaim of the assembly who interpreted it as a token in accord with the Spirit of Masonry and the eternal fitness of things.
Our Frontispiece shows the House of the Temple from the outside, and the accompanying illustrations disclose two of its stately chambers; but to describe such a building in a few words is too daring a thing to attempt. Truly, it is Freemasonry carved in stone; a great Symbol in itself, epitomizing by virtue of its Simplicity in Magnificence, its Grandeur and Beauty of conception, the Faith, the Philosophy, the Genius and the Prophecy of the Order – cemented here, once for all, in a noble emblem destined to withstand the storms of time and the mutations of human torture. In design it is a Square crowned by a Triangle, approached by Three, Five, Seven and Nine steps, its gate guarded by a Sphinx on either side, bespeaking the Wisdom and Power of God; and so it will stand as one generation cometh and another generation goeth, a mute but eloquent witness of the truth that, if Man would build for Eternity, he must imitate on earth the House not made with hands. With right was it dedicated –
“To Purity, Innocence of Act, Word, and Thought; to Mutual Concession, Charitable Judgment, and Toleration; to Charity, Compassion, and Sympathy; to Justice, Night, and Truth; to Universal Benevolence and Good Will Towards Men; to Wise Legislation, Good Faith, Stainless Loyalty, and Honor; a Symbol of Gratitude, Veneration, and Love of God, and a pledge of Future Fidelity and Performance of Duty.
Masons of every land, of every Rite, will join in the words of the Sovereign Grand Commander – grave words fitly spoken – in which Prayer is blended with Prophecy, and Aspiration with Resolution, when he said: “May guile and deceit, false pretense and hypocrisy never intrude within these doors; but let there always stand as vigilent tilers, sincerity and frankness, plaindealing and earnestness to forbid the approach of any unclean visitor. For the increase of loving kindness, which is the soul of all religion, to be the shrine of honor and duty, inseparable as the Dioscuri; for the glorifying and magnifying of truth, which, sown in whatever barren and rocky soil, springs up and yields a hundredfold for use and blessing; for the conquest everywhere of the hydra of tolerance, hatred and persecution; for toleration to which Masonry erects its altars, garlanded with flowers; and to aid in establishing everywhere the dominion of God and faith in human nature, of hope, the chief blessing bestowed by Providence on man, and of charity, divinest of all the virtues, this House of the Temple has been consecrated.”
-Source: The Builder December 1915
The House of the Temple
By Bro. H. L. Haywood, Iowa
MORE than a year has passed since I paid my first visit to the House of the Temple, headquarters for the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction, which stands in Washington, but the impressions remain as vividly as though I had seen it yesterday. There are many remarkable buildings in our Capital City, some of them historic, a few of them beautiful; but, with the possible exception of the Capitol building itself, the House of the Temple is the most wonderful and beautiful of them all. He who has seen the building, outside and inside, will say this whether he be a Mason or not.
I shall never forget my first view of it. On a misty April morning it stood amid the fog as something almost eerie and unearthly, like that palace which Coleridge saw in his vision of Kubla Khan; there was that about it which seemed to speak of antiquity, as though the genius of the ancient East had wandered into the Capital City of the new West; it had an air of timelessness about it which made it hard to believe that it had not yet been completed five years.
In general shape it is patterned after the original Mausoleum which Queen Artemisia erected to contain the ashes of her husband three hundred and fifty-three years before the birth of Christ. The body of the building is cubical, as is appropriate in a structure which is to serve as an altar of Freemasonry. The roof is a series of stone terraces which rise to an apex. The decorative work around the cornice is as beautiful as was ever seen on a Grecian Temple.
The building is much larger than it first appears, especially when seen from a distance. One approaches it up a series of three, five, seven and nine steps; the platforms between these series are so wide that one could set a large building on each one. At either side stands a huge sphinx, dreaming and brooding with level eyes, as though it were still standing on the banks of Mother Nile.
My mind still lay under the hush of these eternal watchers when I knocked at the door and was received by a guide who is there to take care of the hundred or more visitors who enter the portals every day. He stowed my umbrella away in a safe place and told me to feel at home. But one couldn’t very well feel at home home in that magnificent, but subdued, atrium in which I found myself. Far overhead was a carved and gilded ceiling, like a dream of beauty in the upper twilight; on either side was a row of giant monoliths, pillars of the house, of green Vermont granite, their sides fluted. Behind each of these stood a seat, also of granite; in the center was a table of Cavanazza marble. At the further end was the curving stairway which leads to the council chamber of the Supreme Council; to break the coldness of its white marble, John Russell Pope had set in a band of dark marble; it is one of the boldest strokes of architectural genius about the entire building. Keeping watch at the foot of this stairway were two Egyptian figures, a further reminder, were one needed, that Masonry is as old as the world.
On both sides of this atrium, or lobby, are the doors leading into the offices of Grand Commander, the Secretary General and the library; at the left side is the entrance into the executive chamber of the Supreme Council; these walnut doors are so hidden away in the shadows at the side that they do not disturb the unity or serenity of the great chamber itself.
From Secretary General Brother John H. Cowles I received a welcome as warm as the cheerful fire which blazed in the wide fireplace near his desk. He introduced me to the Librarian, Brother William L. Boyden, who “showed me around” the library. Being something of a bibliomaniac I have been privileged to see many libraries but none that I have ever entered has left quite the same impression. It is dignified but homelike and the atmosphere about it was almost as conducive to prayer as to study. The library room proper lies in a corner of the building; it opens into a semi-circular series of stack-rooms which stretch across the end of the building that lies opposite to the entrance.
The center of interest in the library (stack-rooms) is the collection of mementoes of Albert Pike. Here were several photographs, one of his body lying in a casket; here was one of the quill pens with which he wrote; the scrap of paper containing his last words before death; badges and ribbons which once decorated his breast; family albums; his family Bible, and a ritual which he wrote. There was also a collection of pipes, one of them valued at $600, a prize winner at the Paris Exposition. Brother Boyden told me that the General had used every one of them; the size of two or three gave me an added respect for the General’s powers. One of them looked as though it would have held enough tobacco for a week’s smoke.
The center of the Pike collection, it needs not be said, was in the cases full of his original manuscripts. He had written all of these by hand, with meticulous care, so that one might look through several pages without seeing so much as one misformed letter; the writing was not in the usual flowing script but more like a page of copperplate, the letters being shaped like print. Of these manuscripts, all of them bound like books, there were, I believe, about eighty: “Maxims of Roman Law” in thirteen volumes; “Maxims of Military Science and Art” in six volumes; “Vocabulary of Indian Language” in one volume; materials for a history of France in six volumes (part of this has been published); “Commentaries of the Kabbala” in two volumes; Masonic Rituals in twelve volumes; moreover there was also a volume of biography written by his secretary from notes dictated by Pike himself. There were many volumes of Eastern Philosophy which he had translated. These evidences of the man’s titantic intellect impress one almost more than the size and grandeur of the building in which they are preserved.
In addition to all this there was a compass which he had used in the Southwest; his set of chess men; a chair which he had constructed for himself, with a patent, spring in it for raising and lowering the back; his ring for the fourteenth degree, and much of his Masonic Regalia. It may be added that the last words before mentioned were addressed to Brother Frederick Webber, Secretary General at that time, and read as follows:
“Shalom: Peace –that comes with blessing to carefretted men, when death’s dreamless sleep ends all suffering and sorrow.”
One of the rare mementoes in the library is a signature of Albert Mackey made in January, 1859. Among the 85,000 volumes in the library, 40,000 are on Masonic subjects. There is also a collection of rare old Scottish Rite patents and many other documents of almost priceless value. About the room stand some six busts, one of them of Pike; these faces of past leaders, and the thousands of volumes ranged about them, brought home to one’s mind how vast has been the intellectual labor devoted to Masonry.
On the same floor with the library is the executive chamber of the Supreme Council. Honorary members of the Council are permitted to attend when meetings are held in the great chamber on the second floor but only “active Thirty-Thirds” are ever admitted to the executive chamber while the Supreme Council is in session there. The room is so beautiful as to defy description. It is the most beautiful room that I ever saw. An altar stands in the center; seats for the members are built against the wall, and each seat is furnished with an accoustic apparatus which enables the hard-of-hearing to catch every word that is uttered. Needless to say, there is a complete telephone service in this and in every room in the building. It would be hard to find anything that is lacking in that marvelous structure.
The floor immediately beneath this is mainly devoted to the banquet room, albeit there are a number of committee rooms around the side. In the banquet room are twelve tables which will seat ninety-six men; chairs and tables are in fumed quartered oak, ivory finish; carpets, hangings and walls would make a king proud. Behind the banquet room is a serving room, completely tiled, and furnished with every imaginable convenience.
Immediately underneath is a kitchen that would make any housewife green with envy. I shall not describe that kitchen lest every woman who chances to read this will apply for a position there the next time the Supreme Council meets. It is a dream of a-kitchen. On this same floor is a heating plant, with capacity for four hundred tons of coal; also a ventilating plant that cost $80,000.00, and actually ventilates.
Somewhere on one or the other of these two lower floors (I do not remember just where) I ran across the office of that genial and well-read Mason, Brother Horace P. McIntosh, the editor of The New Age. He told me many strange things about Masonry in foreign parts, all of which were true, for, though Brother McIntosh was once a sailor, he is also a Scotchman. He showed me a complete file of The New Age with a great deal of pride, as was fitting, because The New Age is the best Masonic magazine in the world with the exception of one; what that one is I am too modest to say.
The heart and soul of the House of the Temple is the Supreme Council Chamber which occupies the floor just above the entrance floor. The door leading into the chamber is itself a supreme work of art; it is of oak covered with leather. Just inside is a high wooden screen which shuts off the view of the interior when the door is opened; in a concealed room above this door is the pipe organ, not a sign of which is anywhere visible in the chamber itself. I shall not attempt to describe the chamber itself; I don’t know how.
At the center stands an altar of black marble, round the bottom of which runs this legend:
“From the light of the Divine Word, the Logos, comes the wisdom of life and the goal of initiation.”
As a frieze about the room runs another sentence, also selected by Brother George F. Moore, Grand Commander:
“Unto the Divine Light of the Holy Altar, from the outer darkness of ignorance, through the shadow of our earth life, runs the beautiful path of initiation.”
Above the Grand Commander’s station is a vast window, round which coils a huge serpent which symbolizes, one may suppose, wisdom. Along the two sides of the room are twenty-six desks for the active members; behind these are seats for the honorary members. There are great windows at the side hung with massive curtains, and at the top are sky-light windows, the shades over which are operated electrically. The furniture is in Circassian walnut. This sounds as if the room might appear luxurious, but it is not so; the effect is one of quiet dignity and grace, as befits the council chamber of a Scottish Rite.
At one corner of the room, behind a small door, is a spiral stairway leading down to the bottommost floor. One look down that dizzy well of space helps one to understand the total height of the building, which is more than four stories, though it does not appear so high from the street.
Everything about the building was especially designed for it; nothing was used out of stock. The entire structure, it may be said for those who are curious about such matters, cost more than two million dollars. Some fifteen or more employed in the building all of the time.
The erection of the House of the Temple was under the direction of an executive committee of five, the chairman of which was Brother Charles E. Rosenbaum, of Little Rock, Arkansas, General Pike’s old home. The architect was John Ruessell Pope, whose design for the building won the national architectural prize in 1916.
The House of the Temple is the Headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite; it is also a monument to the memory of General Albert Pike whose genius made the Scottish Rite what it is. As one walks through it he feels as if the heroic, scholarly, eloquent spirit of that great character were hovering about him.
– Source: The Builder – October 1918