by Ken McCarty, Director, Masonic Library and Museum
We have a tendency to record the history of our lodges in terms of who was or is a member, when and where we meet, what activities the lodge has been engaged in and other Masonic events that involved the members. Although this information is of great importance, we need to ask ourselves, "Have we spent any time in recording the detailed history of the inanimate objects within our lodge rooms?"
Through the years the Grand Lodge has been cognizant of the importance of keeping records of the various lodge rooms within the Temple. The Master's chair in Gothic hall serves as an excellent example of records kept within our archives. Upon entering Gothic Hall you are immediately taken by the grandeur of the room. Your eyes fall upon the beautifully carved seats and sofas reproduced in the English " late perpendicular style." You look at the many portraits of past R.E. Grand Commanders and, as you continue to survey the hall, you cannot but notice the large American mid-Victorian Gothic carved oak throne chair that sits in the East.
The cathedral style chair is a copy of the one used by the Archbishop of Canterbury and was made in 1855 for the Grand Lodge Room of the New Masonic Hall located in Philadelphia (Chestnut Street between 7th and 8th). This Master's chair, along with the other furniture in the Lodge rooms of the New Masonic Hall, was conceived and carved in a Gothic motif according to specifications of the architect Samuel Slone.
Crafted in sensitive detail with cricketing, scrollwork, tracery and other Gothic devices, this chair has a tall back with open grillwork and is punctuated with a row of cusp-and-foil roundels carved between uprights supporting a steep canopy. The chair is 115 inches high, 41 1/2 inches wide and 37 inches deep. It is a magnificent piece of furniture and truly unparalleled in its splendor.
What makes this chair even more unique is that Joseph Bailly and Charles Buschor carved it. These are the same sculptors who carved the figures Strength, Wisdom, Beauty, Hope and Faith, which adorn the second floor hall of the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia.
The Grand Lodge has been fortunate over the years to have people who took the time and effort to record, not only the fraternal activities of the Grand lodge, but also the details of inanimate objects which provide such a rich and vivid history of our past.
Considering the importance that people through the years have placed upon detailed records within the Temple, perhaps you might do research to determine how much information your Blue Lodge minutes or archives contain regarding the furniture in your lodge room. Is there an accurate record of their appearance, age, manufacturer or other detailed description of the pieces? If not, consider putting together a report for your lodge detailing the many pieces of Masonic history that adorn your meeting room. This information, entered as a committee report into your minutes or placed with your lodge history/archives will then be recorded for posterity and someone in the future will be very appreciative of you dedication to the history of your lodge.
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