Founded in 1825 by both enslaved people and free Black people, Prince Hall Masonic Temple became the headquarters to the nation’s earliest and largest Black fraternity. When the Prince Hall Masonic Temple decided to move its original headquarters, the group purchased the lot on U Street, a significant cultural and social destination for DC’s Black community. Albert I. Cassell (1895-1969), a prominent architect who was the third Black Washingtonian to be a registered architect, designed the building in 1928.
Similar to other establishments in the U Street corridor, Prince Hall supported the Black community as an important communal space in a time of racial segregation in the city. Discrimination denied Black Washingtonians opportunities to socialize in public establishments. To combat this issue and provide an inclusive space for this community, Prince Hall hosted commercial office spaces and social clubs. The building also housed a bowling alley in the basement, a ballroom, and a restaurant called “The Bamboo Inn.”
Today, the Prince Hall Masonic Temple is the headquarters for the Prince Hall Freemason and Eastern Star Charitable Foundation, founded in 1986. The foundation continues the work of the Grand Lodge by providing support for DC’s Black community through disaster relief, assisting the homeless, funding grants and scholarships for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, mentoring youth, and community services like blood and health drives.
DC Inventory: December 9, 1982
National Register: September 15, 1983
Within Greater U Street Historic District