House of the Temple

House of the Temple, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

House of the Temple, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

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House of the Temple

Today we return to our intermittent look at some of the buildings of Washington DC which are not on most tourists’ must see list. Today we are a mile north of the White House on 16th Street. Here we find the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA. The House of the Temple has been open to the public for guided tours since its completion over one hundred years ago in October 1915.

Construction started on the House of the Temple in 1911. Designed by John Russell Pope, this fantasy is arguably his most successful project in Washington DC. This was Pope’s first monumental commission. It brought him to the attention of the architectural community leading to many awards as well as further important commissions in Washington including the National Archives building and the Jefferson Memorial. Steven McLeod Bedford, author of John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire, maintains that the Temple of the Scottish Rite would be the subject of constant praise for the next twenty years.

At the time Pope designed the House of the Temple, the architectural style of the day was to revert back to the early days of America with the Colonial Revival structures. Pope, however, decided to go back a lot further into history drawing his inspiration from the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus, Turkey, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (The original temple is the derivation the word mausoleum).

The building design is full of symbolism. Some more subtle than others. The front steps, for instance, rise in flights of 3,5,7,9 to reflect the numbers scared to Pythagoras. Above the large bronze doors are 33 columns each 33-feet tall. The number 33 proliferates in Masonic ritual, but the group’s historians say they don’t know what it symbolized originally.

Sphinx Statue Power, House of the Temple, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

Sphinx Statue Power, House of the Temple, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

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At the top of the front steps are two large sphinxes which guard the temple doors. Each sphinx weighs 17 tones and was carved out of a single piece of stone on-site by famed sculptor Adolph A. Weinman. On the right (south) is Wisdom. It has half-closed eyes and serene features. On the left and seen in the image here is Power. Here the eyes are wide-open and there is a look of grim determination.

House of the Temple, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

House of the Temple, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Behind the pillars above the main doors is a further example of the use of the symbolic number 33. Here we see a design that has 33 rays of light radiating out from the Scottish Rite’s double headed eagle.

Click here to learn more about Washington DC’s diverse architecture

Summary
House of the Temple
Article Name
House of the Temple
Description
House of the Temple, the HQ of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA in Washington DC is an architectural fantasy full of symbolism.
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Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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