The stately Masonic Temple at 9th and F Streets was the first major private building to be constructed in Washington, D.C. following the Civil War, and also the first to be successfully protected by the District’s Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978.
The first cornerstone for this building was laid in May of 1868 with President Andrew Johnson, a master mason, taking part in the ceremony. The building was designed by German mason Adolf Cluss, the most prominent D.C. architect of his day.
The French Renaissance-style building was bedecked with dazzling design features, including lion heads, angel faces, swords, shields, and other striking embellishments. The great hall on the second floor could accommodate as many as 1,000 guests and was said to be the largest public gathering space in the city upon its completion in 1869.
Over the years, the temple has seen many tenants. It was a key site for early proponents of the temperance movement (aside from the masons themselves) who set up businesses such as the Temple Cafe on the ground level. Next, it became home to the Strayer College Business School, which was founded in Baltimore in 1892, and took over space in the temple in 1909. In 1921, the Julius Lansburgh Furniture Company moved in and made dramatic changes inside the building, and after buying the building in 1926, they remained there until 1970. The building sat vacant for four years, after which it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
A few years later, a developer sought to raze the building and put a parking lot in its place, but the building was spared due to protection under the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act, which went into effect in March 1979.
By 1992, sufficient funds has accrued to restore the building, and a subsequent plan resulted in the construction of a new, modern office building adjacent to the original temple. As of 2000, the 40,000-square-foot temple is connected to an eight-story building via a glass atrium and several bridges.
Know Before You Go
The Grand Lodge Of Masons in Washington, D.C. was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 8, 1974.