The George Washington Masonic National Memorial
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a Masonic building and memorial honoring the first President of the United States. Built by his fellow Masons between 1922 and 1932 at a cost of six million dollars, the 333-foot-tall memorial was inspired by a mixture of classical European buildings and modeled after the ancient lighthouse at Alexandria. It is located atop Shooter's Hill (also known as Shuter's Hill) in Alexandria, Virginia. The site is a tourist destination; research center and library; community center; performing arts center and concert hall; banquet and celebration site; and a meeting site for local and visiting Masonic lodges and organizations.
Backstory and Context
During his life, President George Washington was primarily associated with two lodges in Virginia: the Fredericksburg Lodge, his Mother Lodge; and Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Alexandria, Virginia, where he served as Charter Master under the Grand Lodge of Virginia.
Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 first proposed the idea of a Masonic memorial to Washington in 1852, with funds being sought from Grand Lodges throughout the country. The Alexandria-Washington Lodge had become the repository of many artifacts concerning Washington his family, but the facilities were inadequate for the display and storage of the items. In 1871, a fire in the Lodge destroyed much of the collection. The conflagration led Charles H. Callahan, Senior Warden of Alexandria-Washington Lodge, to purchase several lots on Shuters Hill in 1909 for the construction of a fire-proof Lodge Hall.
In 1910, Masonic leaders from around the U.S. gathered at Alexandria Lodge and created the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association. The objects of the Association, as set forth in its Constitution, are "to erect and maintain in the City of Alexandria, Virginia, a suitable Memorial Temple to George Washington, the Mason, one which shall express in durability and beauty the undying esteem of the Freemasons of the United States for him in whose memory it shall stand throughout the coming years.”1
American architect and Freemason Harvey Wiley Corbett drew up the initial plans for the Memorial. It was originally designed as a Neoclassical three-story memorial temple topped by a three-story tower. However, numerous revisions to the design occurred until 1922. Ultimately, the Grand Lodges of the United states approved the idea of a colossal building designed as a Memorial "lighthouse" to Washington.
On June 5, 1922, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. Constructed proceeded as funds became available for each stage of the project, even throughout the Great Depression. The cornerstone was dedicated in a Masonic ceremony on November 1, 1923. This event was conducted in front of an audience comprised of such notable figures as President Calvin Coolidge, former President and Chief Justice William H. Taft, in addition to a crowd of thousands of Freemasons from across the country. On May 12, 1932, 200 years after Washington's birth, the Memorial was dedicated, with President Herbert Hoover in attendance.
The Memorial interior was largely built following World War II, and the building was finally deemed complete by 1970, though the marble facing and full illumination were not in place until three years later. A large square and compasses were added to the front lawn in 1999. The Memorial’s structure consists of nine floors, many of which are open to ticketed visitors. It is capped by a step pyramid with seven steps, with a light fixture atop the pyramid in the shape of a double keystone.
"A Brief History of the Memorial." The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, Inc. Accessed October 16, 2016. http://www.gwmemorial.org/history.php.
"The George Washington Masonic National Memorial." The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, Inc. Accessed October 16, 2016. http://www.gwmemorial.org/#.
Seghers, George D. "The George Washington Masonic Memorial Centennial Celebration." The Supreme Council, 33 - Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A. Retrieved from Archive.today on October 16, 2016. https://archive.is/20130113051027/http://scottishrite.org/journal/january-february-2010/gwmnm-centennial-celebration.