|Volume LV||August 2008||Number 3|
Discover the Hidden Treasures of Our Masonic Temple
"Placing our hands on the highest pinnacle of the Temple"
The restoration of the Masonic Temple, now completely encased in scaffolding as shown on the cover, has been an exciting and interesting experience, as the architects and contractors unveil new "hidden treasures" both within, and above, its walls.
During a survey conducted on the exterior of the national historic monument by DPK&A Architects, LLP last fall, every detail was recorded and the restoration needs were identified so the information could be provided to the contractor and analyzed to ensure accuracy from a historical and preservation perspective. "It's a process whereby we look at every stone as a dentist would a mouth full of teeth," said Clive Copping, Senior Associate with DPK&A. He said the "pretty extensive" restoration includes masonry work and repair and replacement of some windows and parts of the roof.
One of the most surprising discoveries was found at the very pinnacle of the Temple, as workers scraped 30-40 layers of paint off the 133-year-old building to reveal amazing details hand-carved into the wood. Atop the northwest tower, on the eight-sided spire, a different name is engraved on each side. Although hardly recognizable, through extensive research, members of DPK&A were able to decipher the weather-worn engravings. They were identified as:
Crown: A. SAMPSON - (further research needed)
The names will be re-carved onto stone so they are preserved for future generations.
Also found by the carver is a symbolic representation of two equilateral triangles and four right triangles, representing Euclid's 47th Proposition (Pythagorean Theorem).
"This process has given me a real appreciation for the restoration process," Grand Master Stephen Gardner said. So much so, that he has developed a predilection for climbing up the scaffolding every week to see firsthand the progress being made on the building.
"It's great to have a client who is so interested in the projects and who is willing to go up on the scaffolding to take a look at things," Copping said. "It's been a pleasure working with him." Copping finds it very interesting that there are a total of 33 degrees of Freemasonry, and the top level of the scaffolding is at level 33. Another fascinating breakthrough, according to Carl E. Doebley, Partner, DPK&A, was the discovery of the two "lost" lodge rooms. "Most Masons who have visited the Temple probably do not know that there were two additional lodge rooms beyond what we see today," he said. "They are located on what historically was called the entresol level, which is between the second and third floor on the west side, above the ante rooms to Renaissance and Corinthian Halls. They are reached by the stairs that lead to the north and south towers. Both halls are still there today, much as they looked in 1873. They have examining and preparation rooms, so they clearly were intended for lodge meetings. To enter them is to step back in time."
"Northwest Hall," as it is referenced in the records, is 29 by 42 feet in area, with a waiting lobby and anterooms, intended as a meeting room for special meetings held by lodges. "Southwest Hall" is 18 x 33 feet in size, also with ante-rooms. DPK&A is working on plans for these rooms, as well.
What else will be uncovered as the restoration continues? Only time will tell... but if you are interested in touring the Masonic Temple/ Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, do not let the external appearance stop you. The building remains open for tours, and Pennsylvania Masons (with ID cards) and active military are admitted for free. For additional information, call (215) 988-1900 or visit online at www.pagrandlodge.org.
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