Designed by Cluss and Kammerheuber, the Old Masonic Temple enjoyed early prominence due to its important location across 9th Street 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 for lack of funds—it is reminiscent of antebellum urban club buildings based on the astylar palace design of the Italian 17th century. The Masonic Temple represents a development of this mode in a 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) and the Capitol (1793), among others—were laid Masonically.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964
National Register: May 8, 1974
Within Downtown Historic District