Masonic Temple: Cowtown’s Fortress of Fraternity

Indiana limestone has seldom been more imposing:

light masonic temple 1The Masonic Temple on Henderson Street at Lancaster Avenue is as formidable as any structure in Fort Worth.

On February 21, 1929, just six weeks after the Moslah Shrine mosque at Lake Worth was destroyed by fire, Shriners and Masons announced plans to build a new temple on Henderson Street downtown.

masonic plans 9-12-30 dmnOn September 10, 1930 local Masons met at the South Side lodge on Magnolia Avenue to inspect the plans for the new temple. Architect was fellow Mason Wiley Clarkson. Clip is from the September 12 Dallas Morning News. 

temple 30 ground breakOn November 14 Masons broke ground for the $700,000 ($10 million today) temple (just two weeks after Clarkson’s First United Methodist Church opened five blocks away).

temple 31 may 31 building to beginIn May 1931 work began on the temple, the cost of which had risen to $1 million ($15 million today). The clip indicates that six thousand Masons would use the temple. Fort Worth’s population in 1930 was 163,447.

masonic depiction 9-27-31 dmnClip is from the September 27, 1931 Dallas Morning News.

temple 31 sept cornerstoneThe cornerstone of the temple was laid on September 26, 1931, the cost again estimated at $700,000 ($10 million today). Note that a concert was presented by the Masonic Home and School.

temple 32 may 29 spring festivalThe temple was completed in 1932. One of its first events was the Masons’ annual spring “ceremonial.”

masonic history 9-20-31 dmn2On September 20, 1931 the Dallas Morning News provided some history of Masonry in Fort Worth. The first lodge, Lodge 148, was chartered in 1855. At first members met above a tavern operated by Lawrence Steel on the town square. But the lodge soon built a small building in the block bounded by East Belknap, Grove, East Bluff, and Jones streets (a historical marker at West Belknap and Houston streets says the building was located there). The lodge met on the second floor. The ground floor was used for school classes and church services. The lodge’s first master was Julian Feild.

masonic roster

A roster of early members of Lodge 148 was a who’s who of Fort Worth. To show how active Masons were in early Fort Worth, these members are treated elsewhere at Hometown by Handlebar: Carroll M. Peak, Julian Feild, David Mauck, Lawrence Steel, John Peter Smith, E. M. Daggett, Henry Clay Daggett, Charles B. Daggett, Sam Woody, Ed S. Terrell, Middleton Tate Johnson, Matthew Jackson Brinson, George Saunders, Charles Turner, A. Y. Fowler. (Clip from Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas, From Its Organization in . . . 1837 . . . to . . . 1857, 1857.)

temple 32 55 buildingThis Star-Telegram clip shows that the original 1855 Masonic lodge building was still standing in 1932. Pity that building could not have been moved out of the way of progress and preserved as the oldest public structure in Fort Worth.

bells masonicAmong the treasures in the 1932 temple is the Masonic bell (cast in 1782) from that first lodge hall.

Some more views of the Masonic Temple (now called the “Masonic Center”):

lodge masonic temple 2Architecturally the building is “a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll”: stepped like an Egyptian ziggurat, some art deco elements, . . .

column masoniccolumn ionic masonic 2. . . some classical elements, as in these keystones, dentil molding, and ionic columns.

entry masonicMain entrance doors.

face masonic temple

corner masonicmasonic nightmasonic lamp

 

 

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10 Responses to Masonic Temple: Cowtown’s Fortress of Fraternity

  1. Pete Normand says:

    I remember noticing that building for the first time in the mid-1950s. I was under 10 years of age at the time, but the building intrigued me. I asked my mother if we could go inside, and she just laughed and said “No one but the Masons can go inside. You have to be a member.” Well sir, that hooked me right then and there. About 25 years later I attended a meeting there. It is a real Fort Worth treasure.

  2. tom campbell says:

    Lovely details. And some weird details, thanks. We should probably revise our nickname for this 30′
    s monolith, since we’ve seen it only from our car–we call it “the Albert Speer building”
    .

    • hometown says:

      An apt comparison, Tom Campbell. Wish we had time-lapse film of that edifice rex being built. Fortunately for Cowtown, Clarkson’s buildings have fared far better than Speer’s did.

  3. Ashton Lawson says:

    I live in Colorado now, but I am a permanent (endowed) member of Fort Worth Lodge #148. I am very proud to call this Lodge home, and it is definitely still in operation and very active. Look them up on Facebook and arrange a visit.

  4. Ellen Mitchell says:

    I’ve worked in this building for nearly 33 years.

  5. Ramiro says:

    Very grand looking structure. Have you been inside? I have only seen it up close a couple of times. Do the Masons still hold meetings there?

    • hometown says:

      It is indeed. I got a brief tour when I took the photo of the bell. The interior is lavish. I felt like Indiana Jones.

  6. Nancy Brownlee says:

    Clunky, graceless pseudo-ziggurat; one of our least attractive attractions. Still, it would probably stand up to a moderate hurricane!

    • hometown says:

      I look at the moderne boxes of the 1930s like I do the cars of the 1950s: not as graceful as those that came before (cars of the 1930s) but more graceful than those that came later (cars of the 1960s-). The style of the temple, the Kress Building, and Hedrick’s city hall and public library may not be as engaging as the style of Sanguinet and Staats and the style of other buildings by Clarkson and Hedrick, but to me it’s more engaging than the blue glass stalagmites that came later.

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