Philadelphia is home to many historic places both well known and obscure. It is also home to great works of architecture. Visitors to the Masonic Temple find a wonderful mix of art, architecture and obscurity. The temple is the headquarters for the Free and Accepted Grand Masons of Philadelphia. Many visitors and long time residents do not realize that the temple gives tours to the public. Conducted by a current mason, the tours offer a sneak peek into the hidden world of the masons.
Across the street from city hall stands the Masonic Temple which serves as the home of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Freemasons. Tour attendees enter the temple through the Grand Entrance Gate on North Broad Street. The entrance alone is awe inspiring. The doors are over 17-feet high. You enter into the grand foyer which spans the length of the building. From the foyer the tour guide leads you on an informative tour of seven exquisitely decorated rooms. There is also a library and museum in the temple. The temple is a working lodge that Philadelphia Masons use for their monthly meetings and ceremonies. If you have a love of architecture and art you will find that the Grand Lodge Tour is very informative. If you take the tour to become more acquainted with the rites and rituals of Freemasons, you may be disappointed.
If you are unable to make the trip to the City of Brotherly Love, you can still experience the tour. The Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania offer online tours of the temple on their website. Visitors to the site can choose to take a guided tour, which is basically a slide show with descriptions of the rooms and background information. There is also the option of taking the self-guided online tour. The pictures in the self-guided tour offer less detail than the guided tour so it may be beneficial to do both. While the online tour is not as awe inspiring as viewing the temple in person, it does offer a significant amount of information and the detail in the pictures is very good.
The temple is open Tuesday through Friday with tours starting from 10 a.m. and continuing on the hour to 3 p.m.. They are open on Saturday with tour offerings at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. If you are visiting the city during the tourist season (summer) you may want to call ahead to see if additional times have been added to the schedule. The temple closes for Masonic events so calling ahead is highly recommended. There are no tours given on Sundays. If you are a mason or active duty military, then admission is free. For adults admission is $8 and $5 for children 12 and under as of July 2011. There are discounts for students and seniors. You may choose to visit the library and museum only for a fee of $3. One tip, upon starting your tour ask the tour guide to lower the lights in the center of the building so that you can see the stars etched in the ceiling in glass.
About the Masons
The masons are the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world today. They trace their roots back to the biblical times of King Solomon. Not much is known about the Freemasons because their meetings are not public and members take vows of secrecy. Throughout history there have been some very famous Masons including George Washington and Ben Franklin. The last four mayors of Philadelphia all belong to the order.
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