Volume LVIIMay 2010Number 2

Masonic Temple Tours
By Bro. Dennis P. Buttleman, Curator, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

One of R.W. Grand Master Thomas K. Sturgeon's visions for the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance was to enhance the tour of the Masonic Temple with professionally-recorded descriptions of our glorious headquarters of Pennsylvania Freemasonry. This vision is now a reality.

Bro. William Boharsik, Chief Mechanic of the Masonic Temple, installed 14 compact disc players and speakers throughout the building. The improved sound system will also benefit the lodges that use these rooms. The services of Bro. Alfred Goodrich, owner of Silverstone Studios, were secured to select, compose and record the background music for the tour and to produce the compact discs (if one listens carefully, he can hear Bro. Goodrich himself playing the cello in the Ben Franklin Room!).

A member of Jerusalem Lodge No. 506, Bro. Goodrich contracted Gary Bridges, a professionally recognized voice-over artist, to narrate the tour. Mr. Bridges is the voice of Disney as well as the Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. The magnificent recordings, uniquely designed for each room, ensures that everyone taking the tour will hear a consistent dialogue while the guide, using a laser, demonstrates what is being described.

Before Bro. Goodrich and Mr. Bridges became involved with the project, The Masonic Library and Museum staff reviewed, revised and enhanced the tour script to include all seven lodge halls, corridors, stair halls, banquet hall, and the Benjamin Franklin Room. In addition, the Library and Museum are now included.

The tour provides a wonderful description of the decoration, design and architectural features of the building. As Historian Michael R. Harrison writes for the Historic American Buildings Survey, "The 1873 Masonic Temple on Broad Street is one of the grandest fraternal buildings erected in the United States during the 19th century. Its monumental exterior and fantastically ornamented interior stand as a testimony to the prominence of Freemasonry in post-Civil War America ... Virtually all of this decoration survives, as does most of the building's eclectic, custom-made furniture - factors that contributed to the Temple being designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985."

The Masonic Temple has been open for tours since its dedication in 1873. In the beginning, the building was open only in good weather. In the early years, not all streets were paved and during inclement weather, the floors were a cleaning and safety concern. Today, the Masonic Temple is open for tours (on rainy days also): Tues. - Fri. at 10 and 11 a.m., and at 1, 2, and 3 p.m. On Sat., tours are at 10 and 11 a.m. and noon. Call (215) 988-1917 for more information.

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