History of the Masonic Temple

About the Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple, located at One North Broad Street in Philadelphia, is home to The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania and the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the governing body of Pennsylvania Masons. The meeting place of the Grand Lodge has evolved since its inception in 1732. Below is a timeline of notable meeting places in Philadelphia and the history of the Temple itself.

Historical Timeline


Tavern Meetings

Tun Tavern Line drawing

Before having a dedicated building for meetings, Pennsylvania Masons often met in local taverns. The earliest meetings were held in Tun Tavern, where Benjamin Franklin became a Mason in 1731. The first Pennsylvania Grand Lodge meeting took place there in 1732.


Freemason’s Lodge

As Freemasonry in Pennsylvania grew, taverns became too crowded to host meetings of the Grand Lodge. The year 1755 marked the opening of the Freemason’s Lodge, the first dedicated meeting space for Masons in the Western Hemisphere. During the Revolutionary War years, the building was utilized as a jail for suspected loyalists. It was sold in 1785 due to financial difficulties the fraternity and many others faced post-Revolutionary War. After the building was sold, Masons held meetings in a variety of places, including homes, the historic Quaker Meeting House and even Independence Hall!


Pennsylvania Freemason Hall

Pennsylvania Freemason Hall was purchased as a new dedicated space for Freemasonry.


Masonic Hall

As Pennsylvania Masons grew in number, a larger space was needed to accommodate them. Masonic Hall was constructed and put into use in 1811. Unfortunately, the building caught fire just eight years later. It was rebuilt the following year. In addition to hosting meetings, the rebuilt structure played host to temporary exhibits from other iconic Philadelphia institutions, as well as the first-ever Philadelphia Flower Show.

historical illustration of Masonic Hall

Image Credit: David Chillas, World Digital Library


New Masonic Hall

Historical illustration of the New Masonic Hall
JPG_digitool_65644_The New Masonic Hall, Philadelphia.

Image Credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

As Pennsylvania Freemasonry continued to grow in popularity, the Masonic Hall was again rebuilt to accommodate a larger membership. A striking, Gothic-style building was constructed on the former site of Masonic Hall. The New Masonic Hall quickly became too small for the growing membership and costly to maintain.


Masonic Temple

historical photo of the Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple was designed by James H. Windrim. Construction began in 1868 at its current location at One North Broad Street. Its completion in 1873 predated Philadelphia City Hall’s by nearly three decades.


Egyptian Hall Dedication

Interior of Egyptian Hall

A favorite on tours to this day, Egyptian Hall was the first room to be decorated and was dedicated in 1889. The interior rooms of the Masonic Temple were still being designed until 1908.


A Presidential Visit

In 1902, the Masonic Temple held an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of George Washington becoming a Mason. President Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance. His invitation and attendance record are currently on display in the museum.


Opening of the John Wanamaker Resource Center

In 1908, Brother John Wanamaker founded the John Wanamaker Resource Center, which houses The Masonic Library and Museum inside the Temple. The library and museum were open to both Masons and the public as a premier site for Masonic learning and history.


Installation of Corinthian Hall Rug

Corinthian Hall at the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Corinthian Hall’s Roman-inspired design was finalized in 1903, however the stunning rug that lines the 105-foot-long hall was installed in 1963 after it was gifted by the Grand Lodge of Puerto Rico. There is a deliberate imperfection in one of the leaves in its design to symbolize the “imperfection of man.”


The 100th Anniversary of the Masonic Temple

Historical photo of people touring Temple on its 100th anniversary

Approximately 12,000 people attended the two-day Open House in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Masonic Temple. On several occasions, the line for admittance stretched to more than a block in length.


Installation of Benjamin Franklin at the Press

Benjamin Franklin at the Press statue

Created by artist Joseph Brown, this statue was commissioned by Pennsylvania Masons and gifted to the City of Philadelphia.


Renovation of the Grand Ballroom

The Grand Ballroom at the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From 2016 – 2017, the Grand Ballroom underwent major renovations, including the installation of four stunning stained glass windows celebrating presidents who were Masons. Another prominent feature is a 17-foot bronze statue of Ben Franklin.


Installation of Washington and Franklin Brotherhood

Washington and Franklin Brotherhood statue in front of the Masonic Temple

Created by artist Jim West, a new statue of Benjamin Franklin handing George Washington a Masonic apron was commissioned by Pennsylvania Masons and installed in front of the Temple in 2018. The Masonic apron depicted in this sculpture is currently on display in the museum.


The 150th Anniversary of the Masonic Temple

Exterior of Masonic Temple featuring 150th anniversary flag

The 150th anniversary of the Masonic Temple is being celebrated with free tours on select days and special events throughout the year.