|Volume LVI||February 2009||Number 1|
A Grand Revealing
By John Minott, Tour Guide, Masonic Library & Museum of Pennsylvania, and magazine staff
The Masonic Temple is showing off its fresh new "face" now that all the scaffolding, which has encompassed the 135-year-old National Historic Landmark since August 2007, has been removed.
From the sidewalk to the roof, the building has been cleaned and re-pointed to its original appearance. Windows have been restored and weather stripping was added. The roof was repaired and all paint has been stripped and re-glazed.
The work is mostly complete with the exception of the cast iron fence. The historic posts are being restored and a fresh coat of grey paint is being applied to cover the old black layer. Based on research by DPK&A Architects, LLP, the new look of the fence will respect the historical aspect of the building, while appearing more welcoming to visitors.
The Temple had been well-maintained over the years, according to project manager Clive Copping, RIBA, of DPK&A. It faced several adversities though, including the construction of the subway and the Justice Center which caused the Temple to shift and gaps to form around its foundation. These gaps were properly repaired during the recent restoration work.
"The key site of the Temple within the fabric of Philadelphia made us feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on it," Copping said. "It is a great building and we're pleased with the results. J.J. DeLuca [general contractor] did a good job - it was a real team effort."
The interior of the Temple is also receiving its share of updates. In March 2008, a vast network of scaffolding constructed high above the staircase inside the Broad Street entrance greeted visitors. This structure was erected to accommodate painters restoring the great murals displayed here which had suffered water damage over the years.
These vast oil-on-canvas paintings are the work of Brother George Herzog (1851-1920), a German-born and trained interior decorative painter, who, according to a contemporary source, "guarantees satisfaction over all work executed." A member of Lodge No. 51 (now University Lodge No. 51, Philadelphia), he was responsible for nearly 80 percent of the Temple's mural art. Among his many accomplishments is the magnificent Egyptian Hall (1889), the first hall completed.
His great murals above the western staircase are: "Demeter Greek Goddess of Agriculture" in her splendid lion-drawn cart (North wall); "Bringing in the Harvest" (South wall); "Woodlands" (West wall); and "Singers praising God for the bountiful crops at harvest time" (East wall).
Much of the water damage not only affected the surface of the paintings, but also the plaster behind the murals. The canvas had to be cut or peeled back to expose the damaged plaster. In the areas where the canvas was partially peeled back, the backside of the mural was cleaned and re-secured to the wall surface. The damaged surfaces were meticulously restored and touched up to blend in with the existing undamaged sections of the painting.
In the areas where the loose canvas was cut out to expose the water damaged plaster, the plaster was repaired and covered by a new piece of primed canvas that was then attached to the main body of the mural. The missing painted artwork was recreated on the new canvas patch and blended into the existing mural. The damaged surfaces surrounding the canvas areas were scraped and touched up as required in colors that matched the preexisting ones. Meticulous attention was paid to ensure the new paint blended in with the undamaged portions.
The mural restoration was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Concordia Lodge No. 67, Jenkintown. The restoration of the entire Masonic Temple would not be possible without all the generous donors who have supported this project and made the Temple a landmark of which the entire fraternity and community can be proud.
See the Masonic Temple in a new light. It is open for tours Tuesday through Friday, beginning at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. (additional tours may be added at 4 p.m.), on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. (there may be an additional noon tour), or at other times through advance arrangements. Pennsylvania Masons (with ID cards) and active military are admitted free. For additional information, call (215) 988-1900 or visit online at www.pagrandlodge.org.
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