Designed by Cluss and Kammerheuber and erected in 1867-1869, this fraternal-commercial building of rare architectural merit is located importantly across 9th St. from the old U.S. Patent Office. In scale and dignity it complements its prestigious neighbor, a symbol of awakening civic consciousness in Washington City during the nationalistic period following the Civil War.
Adolph Cluss characterized the style of the Masonic Temple as French Renaissance; the press, as "Modern renaissance of the 19th century." Lacking its projected mansard roof--omitted at no great loss for lack of funds--it is reminiscent of those antebellum urban club buildings which were based on the astylar palace design of the Italian 17th century. The Masonic Temple represents a development of this mode in period when function and pure design were gaining precedence over historical considerations in architecture.
Masonic activity in the District of Columbia dates from about 1795. The Grand Lodge of Masons was the first organized here in January 1811. In the early years of the city the cornerstones of important buildings--notably the White House (1792), the Capitol (1793) and others--were laid Masonically.
The windows of the temple are 2/4 light double-hung sash at the second floor; 2/6 at the third and fourth floors. The console brackets of the crowning cornice once terminated in finely carved animal heads. Panels between paired brackets were alternately moulded and garlanded. Some Masonic symbolism is present. The rear wall, of brick, is embellished only by a substantial corbel table in continuation of the crowning cornice of the street facades.
DC listing: November 8, 1964
National Register listing: May 8, 1974