George Washington Masonic National Memorial

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George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a Masonic building and memorial located in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.. It is dedicated to the memory of George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Mason. The tower is fashioned after the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt. The 333-foot (101 m) memorial sits atop Shooter's Hill (also known as Shuter's Hill) at 101 Callahan Drive. Construction began in 1922, the building was dedicated in 1932, and the interior finally completed in 1970.

The memorial is served by the King Street Metro station on the Blue and Yellow Lines of the Washington Metro. The station is located about four blocks from the memorial.

Early memorial efforts and Washington Memorial Park

The idea to construct a Masonic memorial for George Washington was first proposed in 1852 by the Washington area's "mother lodge," Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 (located in Fredericksburg, Virginia). Funds were sought from Grand Lodges (state-level Masonic organizations) throughout the United States to construct a memorial Masonic Temple with a large statue in the vestibule. Enough funds were raised to commission a life-size bronze statue of Washington in full Masonic regalia from a sculptor named Powers who was living in Rome, Italy. The statue reached Alexandria in early 1861, just before the outbreak of the American Civil War. It remained on display in Alexandria until the summer of 1863, when it was moved to Richmond, Virginia. The statue was destroyed in the fire which occurred as Richmond surrendered to the Army of the Potomac on April 3, 1865.

Plans for a Masonic memorial moved forward again in 1909 after work on a competing memorial began. The proposed site for the new memorial was Shooter's Hill, which at one time had been seriously considered by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as the site of the United States Capitol building. On May 8, 1900, citizens of Alexandria formed the "Washington Monument Association of Alexandria" (WMAA), a nonprofit organization whose mission was to build a memorial to George Washington in the city of Alexandria. Little was accomplished in the organization's first few years of life, but in February 1908 the WMAA purchased an option to buy a 50 acres (20 ha) tract of land on and around Shooter's Hill and the nearby Alexandria Golf Course. Most of the land immediately on either side of King Street was subdivided into housing tracts and sold, with 25 acres (10 ha) of land on top of Shooter's Hill reserved for a memorial. The sale of the housing subdivisions paid for the purchase of the entire tract, with enough left over to provide for construction of a memorial.

Within a month of the purchase of Shooter's Hill, the WMMA decided to build a park rather than a memorial. About 15 acres (6.1 ha) were set aside for the George Washington Memorial Park, while another 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) were set aside for a small memorial within the park. The new subdivision, named Fort Ellsworth (after an American Civil War fort which formerly occupied Shooter's Hill), was platted in November 1908, and public streets laid out. (The subdivision contained a restrictive covenant which limited purchases of lots in the subdivision to whites only.) The park was ready for dedication on April 30, 1909—the 120th anniversary of the inauguration of Washington as President. The Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (George Washington's Masonic lodge, as well as the lodge he led as a Master Mason) was asked to preside over its dedication. President William Howard Taft, Vice President James S. Sherman, Speaker of the House Joseph Gurney Cannon, Virginia Governor Claude A. Swanson, Virginia Lieutenant Governor J. Taylor Ellyson, the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia, Baltimore Mayor J. Barry Mahool, and numerous other dignitaries attended the dedication ceremony. (Shooter's Hill was incorporated into the city of Alexandria on April 1, 1914.)

Formation of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association

There were several reasons why Masonic bodies began moving on their own memorial. The construction of George Washington Memorial Park sparked renewed Masonic interest in building their own memorial. But another reason was the safety of items owned or used by George Washington ("Washingtoniana") and which were now owned by the Alexandria-Washington lodge. The lodge had suffered several fires over the previous century, and a number of these historic items were destroyed. Constructing a fireproof building which would more safely house these important items was a major factor in pushing the Masonic memorial forward.

In late 1907 or early 1908, Alexandria Commissioner of Revenue Charles H. Callahan (the deputy master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22) proposed to his fellow Masons that, at last, a memorial to George Washington should be built. Callahan proposed the construction of a $10,000 memorial temple. In early 1908, the Alexandria-Washington Lodge formed a "local memorial temple committee" to research the costs and obstacles involved in building a memorial temple. The committee passed a resolution asking Joseph Eggleston, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, to approve the creation of a memorial temple and to assist in creating a national memorial association in which all Masons and Masonic organizations could participate.

On May 7, 1909, the Grand Lodge of Virginia called upon all grand lodges in the United States to meet in Alexandria on February 22, 1910, to discuss plans for organizing a George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association whose purpose would be to construct a memorial temple. President Taft, Representative Champ Clark, Secretary of War Jacob M. Dickinson, and Virginia Governor William Hodges Mann all spoke at the February 22 meeting. The George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association (GWNMMA) was formed at this meeting, and plans were adopted to raise $500,000 to go toward the cost of construction and another $500,000 for an endowment and maintenance fund. Thomas J. Shryock, Grand Master of Maryland (and a former Treasurer of Maryland and Brigadier General in the Maryland National Guard), was elected president of the GWNMMA.

At this point, the GWNMMA only planned to construct a Masonic temple, not a giant memorial. One floor was to be set aside for use by Masonic lodges, and one or more fireproof, secure rooms in the temple were to be used for the display of Washingtoniana and historical documents owned by the Alexandria-Washington Lodge. By February 1911, the GWNMMA had ruled out any other site than Alexandria as the site for its memorial temple, and fund-raising activities were being planned. A more formal association structure was also adopted at this time. But except for fund-raising activities, little was done in the Association's first five years of activity.

Site selection

Nearly everyone involved in the project in its early years agreed the memorial temple had to be built in Alexandria due to Washington's extensive ties to that city. George Washington Memorial Park seemed a good location, but this park was still privately owned by the WMAA. In September 1915, the Alexandria-Washington Lodge offered to buy several lots on top of Shooter's Hill for $1,000. At about the same time, the city of Alexandria discussed whether it should ask the WMMA to turn over the remainder of George Washington Memorial Park to the city. The lodge suggested that 28 acres (11 ha) of the eastern slope of George Washington Memorial Park be retained as a public park, while the rest of the tract could be used for any purposes the city wanted. This plan was not acted on. By December 1915, the city had purchased all of Shooter's Hill and George Washington Memorial Park from the WMMA except for a 2-acre (0.81 ha) area (lots 29 through 38, inclusive, of block 5) on the north slope of the hill. In October or December 1915 (sources disagree on the date), the Alexandria-Washington Lodge purchased the north slope of Shooter's Hill (an area about 400 by 200 feet (120 by 61 m)) for $1,000. Under the terms of the conveyance of the deed, the Masons were required to build a memorial temple (costing no less than $100,000) to George Washington at the top of the hill within 10 years or they would be forced to turn over the land to the city of Alexandria.

With land secured, the Masons began making plans to build a memorial. In 1917, the Alexandria-Washington Lodge reported that the intent remained to construct a $500,000 building to house the Washingtoniana (valued at $2 million) which the lodge held. The GWNMMA had raised $5,000, and another $20,000 in donations was anticipated. GWNMMA President Thomas J. Shyrock died in 1917, and Louis Arthur Watres (former Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and a former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania) was elected president as his successor.

By February 1922, the GWNMMA had radically revised its plans for the memorial. Now the building would cost $1.5 million, with another $400,000 set aside for landscaping the grounds and $500,000 as an endowment for perpetually maintaining the memorial. The directors of the GWNMMA also approved a new charter for the organization, inspected the building site, and approved blueprints for the building. The state of Virginia approved the revised charter for the GWNMMA on March 16, 1922.

Early designs

The GWNMMA selected Harvey Wiley Corbett (a Freemason) of the New York City firm of Helmle & Corbett to be the chief architect. Corbett planned a three-story memorial temple topped by a three-story tower. The first three floors (which constituted temple and the base of the tower) would be built in the Neoclassical style, while the tower would be a variation on the setbacks popular in Modern architecture. The structure was to be built entirely of masonry, with almost no metal used in its construction (except for reinforcing rods in the concrete). The rationale for this decision was that a building constructred purely of stone would be the most permanent structure possible. The firm of Osgood & Osgood of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the consulting engineer. Daniel E. Moran (of the firm Moran, Maurice & Proctor of New York) was the foundation's designer; Gunvald Aus was the structural engineer; the firm of Clarke, McMullen & Riley (of New York) was the mechanical engineer; and Carl Rust Parker of Olmsted Brothers was the landscape architect. The general contractor was the Percy Cranford Co., but the actual masonry work was done by the Samuel Miller Co. (both companies were located in Washington, D.C.).

Corbett's initial design was for a memorial about 200 feet (61 m) high. Corbett drew his inspiration from the restoration of the lighthouse at the port of Ostia Antica near Rome. In the initial design, the first floor was occupied by a main hall with a colonnade on either side and clerestory windows, at the back of which a large statue of Washington would reside. Historic murals would be painted on the walls. To the right and left of the main hall would be large meeting rooms (one for the use of the Alexandria-Washington Lodge and one for use by other Masonic bodies. Also to the left of the main hall would be a small room which would contain a replica of the original Masonic lodge room in which Washington himself had presided.

Additional details and apparent design changes were revealed in July 1922. Although the building was still just 200 feet (61 m) in height, the press now reported that the building would be built specifically in the Greek and Romanesque Revival styles and be constructed of white marble and white concrete. The "atrium" of the building (as the main hall was now called) was now slated to also contain space along the walls which could be used by Grand Lodges to memorialize their prominent members, while the rooms around the memorial hall would now be dedicated to the various Masonic "appendant bodies" (jurisdictional bodies, social groups, youth and women's organizations, etc.). The plan also now called for the second floor to be used as an art gallery as well as a museum, and for the museum to not only honor Washington but also other famous Masons from Virginia. The memorial was still intended to house Washingtoniana and contain a replica of the original Alexandria-Washington Lodge's meeting room.

A major revision to the memorial plans was made in February 1923. The GWNMMA approved constructing the building entirely of granite (rather than marble and concrete), a change which raised the cost of the structure to $3 million. Including the cost of landscaping and the required maintenance endowment, the total cost had risen to $4 million.

These plans were revised and elaborated on again by April 1923. Now the memorial was to stand 330 feet (100 m) high. The memorial "atrium" on the first floor was specified to be 45 feet (14 m) wide by 80 feet (24 m) deep. With the clerestory, this hall would be 60 feet (18 m) in height. Meeting rooms would still surround the "atrium." The second story, now said to be 45 by 60 feet (14 by 18 m) in size with a high ceiling and extensive windows (to let in large amounts of natural light), was intended to house the Washington museum. The purpose of the third floor was not yet agreed upon. The tower above the third floor now also contained an observation deck forming a seventh and ultimate floor at the top of the tower. The new plans specified that terraces would lead from the front steps of the memorial down to the street below. The cost, however, was still budgeted for $4 million.

The final major change in the memorial came in early 1924. The height of the tower had been decreased at some point to 280 feet (85 m). But in February 1924, architect Corbett raised the tower's height back to 330 feet (100 m).

Construction of the building
Building the foundation

Given the size and weight of the memorial, even in its early design stages, a solid foundation for the structure was critical. An initial test borehole into Shooter's Hill (which reached a depth of 200 feet (61 m)) found no bedrock, leading to concerns that the site might not be a suitable location for the building. Daniel E. Moran, the foundation engineer and an expert in the construction of foundations, further investigated the earth beneath the building. Moran drilled 125 feet (38 m) below the lowest point of the foundation, and found gravel, hard clay, and sand. Soil experts in New York City and with the United States Geological Survey analyzed the soil, and provided a guarantee (backed up by a bond) that no settling of the building would occur due to soil conditions.

Ground for the memorial was broken at noon on June 5, 1922. Louis Watres, president of the Association, and Charles H. Callahan, vice president, broke ground in a driving rain. The shovel and pick used to break ground, as well as four small stones from the first two spades of earth turned, were preserved by the Alexandria-Washington Lodge. Excavation of the memorial's foundation began a few days later, with Cranford Paving Co. of Washington, D.C., doing the work. The foundation was roughly hemispherical to provide the greatest stability, and the top of Shooter's Hill leveled (reducing the elevation by 25 feet (7.6 m) to 108 feet (33 m)) in order to accommodate the 177-foot (54 m) wide by 195-foot (59 m) long foundation. The basement of the building was as large as the first two floors combined, and intended to house the structure's mechanical plant. Although steam shovels were used to excavate the foundation, the earth was carried away by mule-drawn wagons. A wide road was constructed to the top of Shooter's Hill to permit the transport of earth off the site and construction materials to the hilltop.

By July 1922, the GWNMMA had received $700,000 in donations and another $900,000 in pledges. Some time in the spring of 1922, the GWNMMA also obtained title to the 32-acre (13 ha) tract encompassing the rest of Shooter's Hill. About 22 acres (8.9 ha) of the tract, valued at $1 million, was purchased from the city of Alexandria at almost no cost (essentially making it a gift from the city). The total size of the tract owned by the Masons was now 36 acres (15 ha).

By February 1923, $1 million had been spent on constructing the foundation and walls and on landscaping. Topsoil for the landscaping came from the Earl Strong Co. of Alexandria, the grass seed from O.M. Scotts and Sons of Ohio, and other trees, shrubs, and landscaping products came from C.F. Armiger of Washington, D.C. Revenues easily exceeded these expenditures, as $1.8 million had been received in donations and pledges. The same month, the GWNMMA expanded its board of directors from nine to 12. By April 1923, the foundation had been fully excavated and the foundation walls constructed.The Washington Post reported that the concrete foundation was the largest ever cast in a single piece. The foundation (of articulate girder design) was 39,000 square feet (3,600 m2) in size, 4.5 to 9 feet (1.4 to 2.7 m) thick, and contained 9,000 cubic yards (6,900 m3) of concrete.Plows pulled by mules had reshaped the side of the hill into its terraced form, and most of the landscaping was now done. Total cash donations received totaled more than $1 million by this time.

Laying of the cornerstone

Laying of the memorial's cornerstone occurred on November 1, 1923. Planners had initially proposed that cornerstone be laid on November 4, 1923—the 170th anniversary of George Washington's initiation into Freemasonry. But because November 4 that year fell on a Sunday, the ceremony was scheduled for November 1. The ceremony almost did not occur. A short time before the event, contractors discovered that the cornerstone for the memorial had been cut too small. A new cornerstone was quickly fashioned, and completed just in time. Alexandria Mayor William Allen Smoot declared a holiday, and all businesses closed except for banks and the U.S. post office. The United States Navy light cruiser USS Richmond and a U.S. Navy destroyer anchored at the Alexandria torpedo factory as part of the festivities. Trains ran every three minutes into the city of Alexandria in order to accommodate the crowds.

An estimated 14,000 Masons, dignitaries, United States armed forces personnel, police, and others marched in a massive parade from the Alexandria waterfront to Shooter's Hill to kick off the event. During the parade, four United States Army Air Corps planes circled overhead. Among the dignitaries present at the 1 p.m. cornerstone-laying event were President Calvin Coolidge, now-Chief Justice of the United States William Howard Taft, Virginia Governor Elbert Lee Trinkle, and Alexandria Mayor Smoot. Charles H. Callahan was master of ceremonies, and the Rt Rev. James Edward Freeman, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, provided the invocation and benediction. President Coolidge laid the cornerstone using the same trowel Washington used on September 18, 1783, to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building (the trowel was owned by the Alexandria-Washington Lodge). Loudspeakers were used to broadcast the speeches of President Coolidge and the other speakers to the crowd, and a temporary radio station (operated by radio station WCAP) was set up on Shooter's Hill to broadcast the proceedings nationwide. (Both the loudspeakers and temporary radio station were the same which President Warren G. Harding had used during the laying of the cornerstone for the Lincoln Memorial.)

Every U.S. state deposited an item into the cornerstone. Other items deposited in the cornerstone were an American flag; a bronze medal celebrating the inauguration of Warren G. Harding; a bronze plaque containing the names of the architects, consulting architects, landscape architects, engineers, and contractors working on the memorial; a Bible; a lambskin apron; a copy of William Joseph Williams' 1794 portrait of George Washington (in Masonic regalia); several books and pamphlets concerning the life of Washington and Freemasonry in America; and the names of the board of directors and officers of the GWNMMA. Beneath the cornerstone was another container, which held several dimes, copies of the Constitution, copies of the Declaration of Independence, books, and other items.

Construction milestones

Construction proceeded slowly after the cornerstone was laid. This was because construction stopped during the winter, to ensure that the memorial remained free of moisture, frost damage, and the effects of cooling (to improve the fit between stones). The Helmle & Corbett architectural firm did an extensive study of stone buildings in Europe, and determined that working only during good weather was the best way to construct a durable building. During 1923, the GWNMMA raised another $500,000 in cash donations, which brought the total received to $2 million. The granite for the memorial came from quarries in New Hampshire, and was provided by the Maine & New Hampshire Granite Corp. Some of these blocks were as much as 20 feet (6.1 m) long.

By the time of the GWNMMA's annual meeting in February 1924, construction on the first floor was almost complete. The GWNMMA believed that the second floor would be finished by the end of the construction season in the fall of 1924, and that the entire structure would be done by late 1927 or early 1928. The Association also decided that a statue of Washington should be placed in the memorial "atrium," and that this statue should be a marble copy of Jean-Antoine Houdon's 1788 statue of George Washington (which stood in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond). In May 1924, the GWNMMA resodded the terrace and spent $6,000 on a new gateway and entrance to the memorial at the foot of Shooter's Hill. The 1924 construction year ended in December with the installation of eight green marble columns (each weighing 11 to 18 short tons (10.0 to 16 t)) in the memorial "atrium." These columns had arrived at Alexandria's Union Station by train from Redstone, New Hampshire. Each green marble column was to be 40.5 feet (12.3 m) high and 2.5 feet (0.76 m) in diameter when finished. At this time, it was estimated that the building would be complete in three to six years.

Work on the building slowed in 1925 due to the difficult nature of the work of completing the roof and raising the tower. About 5,500 cubic feet (160 m3) of pink Conway granite (also quarried near Redstone) was received in May 1925 and used to build the memorial "atrium" (or hall). The walls of the hall were already 32 feet (9.8 m) high, and about 14 feet (4.3 m) of granite needed to be raised on the northeast and south sides of the hall to complete them. (They were to be 50 feet (15 m) when finished in December 1925.) Sixteen columns of St. Genevieve marble, quarried in Missouri, were also being manufactured. Each column was intended to be 18.5 feet (5.6 m) high and 2.3 feet (0.70 m) in diameter when finished. The GWNMMA anticipated spending $595,000 in construction funds in 1925, and raised another $500,000 in cash donations.

In 1926, the GWNMMA appropriated another $500,000 to continue construction on the memorial. The first event ever held in the (unfinished) memorial was the February 22, 1926, GWNMMA annual meeting. The group reported that $2 million in cash donations had been received thus far, and $1.8 million expended. Eight pink Conway granite columns—each 40 feet (12 m) high and weighing 68 short tons (62 t)—for the portico were raised into position in October 1926, nearly completing this portion of the structure. Also nearing completion was a massive bas-relief sculpture of Washington's head in profile, designed by sculptor Gail Sherman Corbett (wife of architect Harvey W. Corbett). G. Fred Coles, who helped execute the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, did the carving of the sculpture on-site in the summer of 1927 from Corbett's maquette.

At the group's February 1927 meeting, the GWNMMA officers reported raising another $125,000 in cash donations. Six months later, the roof was put in place. The concrete roof was designed by Gunvald Aus, who also designed the Woolworth Building in New York City. Pouring of the concrete roof for the memorial's first three floors began on August 22, 1927, and was completed on August 30. Steel for the roof was provided by Concrete Steel Co. of Washington, D.C.; the Vulcanite Portland Cement Co. of Philadelphia provided the cement; and Cranford Construction Co. poured the roof. A total of 71 short tons (64 t) of steel reinforcing rods were used in the roof, which contained 953 cubic yards (729 m3) of concrete. The roof was 74.75 feet (22.78 m) wide and 110 feet (34 m) long—reportedly the largest concrete roof in the world at the time. The roof was supported by four steel-reinforced concrete beams, each beam 72 feet (22 m) long and 14.5 feet (4.4 m) deep. Each beam varied from 1 to 5 feet (0.30 to 1.5 m) in thickness, contained 7.5 short tons (6.8 t) of steel reinforcing rods, and weighed a total of 98 short tons (89 t)). The beams were supported at the front of the building by four of the pink Conway granite columns. At the four corners of the roof were concrete piers, each 9 square feet (0.84 m2) in size.Spandrel beams between the columns—6.3 feet (1.9 m) wide at the bottom, 9 feet (2.7 m) wide at the top, and 24 feet (7.3 m) deep—also helped support the roof. The roof was waterproofed, sealed, and covered by the New York Roofing Co. and the Ehret-Warren Co. In August 1927, it was believed the building would be finished in another three to five years.

At its February 1928 annual meeting, the GWNMMA agreed to spend another $500,000 in the coming year on construction costs. The Association also agreed to increase the endowment fund to $1.5 million, for a total cost of building, grounds, and endowment of $5 million. At this time, it was estimated that the building could be completed if another $500,000 was raised in 1929. The Grand Lodge of the state of Virginia announced at the meeting that it had agreed to fund the construction of bronze doors for the memorial at a cost of $10,000. At the close of the meeting, the GWNMMA established a formal dedication date of 1932 for the memorial.

In February 1929, the GWNMMA learned that $400,000 in cash donations had been received in 1928. When work on the structure began again in March 1929, the terrace and lawns were resodded. The first Masonic degrees were conferred in the unfinished memorial in mid-October 1929. The first Blue Lodge meeting there was held November 14, 1929. In 1930, the Association spent $225,000 on the memorial. That same year, GWNMMA President Watres donated a large Celesta-like set of chimes for the memorial's tower.

Work on the exterior of the memorial ended on in early February 1931. The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masonry paid for the construction of the aluminum double-keystone symbol and light at the top of the building. The fixture, the largest of its kind in the world at the time, was in place by February 1929 but not yet lit (as exterior lighting systems were still being installed). Construction of decorative items, flooring, landscape drainage, marble walls, and plumbing continued throughout 1931 and was expected to be complete by February 1932. Work on the outbuilding housing the memorial's boiler room began in late March 1931. The brick building was constructed by the Temple B. Greenstreet Co. of Washington, D.C., and the brick smokestacks built by the Alphonse Custodis Co. of New York. The outbuilding's boilers and memorial's interior radiators were supplied and installed by the American Radiator Co. Interior heating and ventilation units and ductwork were provided by the B.F. Sturtevant Co., Benjamin F. Shore Co., and Buffalo Forge Co. Modern thermostats were used to control the heating and cooling, and provided by Johnson Service Co. The furnaces used heating oil for fuel, and were installed by the Automatic Heating Corporation of Washington, D.C.


The George Washington National Masonic Memorial was dedicated on May 12, 1932. Planners had hoped that the memorial would be ready by February 22, 1932—the 200th anniversary of Washington's birth. But the structure was not ready in time, as many of the interior details had not yet been decided on or installed. Even though they had two extra months, the contractors still rushed to finish the building. The huge granite steps leading up to the main entrance were not in place (and would not be until 1940). Among the rooms being prepared at the last minute was the 1,000-seat circular auditorium on the second floor at the building's rear. The interior marble in the auditorium came from the Hilgartner Marble Co. of Baltimore, while the seating and woodwork came from the American Seating Co. of Grand Rapids. The fan-shaped ceiling and the frieze in the auditorium were designed by Louis Ludwig of Washington, D.C., while the installation of the ceiling and the frieze was done by the A.W. Lee Co. of Washington. Contractors were also busy installing sashes, windows, and ventilation grillwork throughout the building, and laying a cement floor in the memorial "atrium" (or hall) on the second floor. Bronze was used for the sashes, doors, door jambs, and other exterior work where connection to the granite was required, and these items were put in place by the William H. Jackson Co. of New York. The interior and exterior ironwork was supplied by the Alexandria Iron Works and by the Washington Stair and Ornamental Iron Co. (The cement floor would later be ripped up and replaced with a marble floor.) No attempt was made to complete the first floor (other than the assembly hall), the two lodge rooms on the second floor, or any of the tower rooms in time for the dedication.

The memorial had been constructed without incurring any debt. From the start of the project, the Masonic bodies involved resolved not to sign any contract or begin any work until the money for such efforts was already in hand. At the time of the dedication, not a single bond had been sold or loan taken out to fund the building's construction.

A number of special events marked the dedication ceremony. More than 100 special trains were required to carry an estimated 150,000 spectators into Alexandria. Many attendees slept in railway sleeping cars (which remained parked in the city's rail yards) because hotel accommodations were lacking. The U.S. Navy sailed the historic wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate USS Constitution to Alexandria for the dedication. Three United States Coast Guard cutters and a U.S. Navy submarine also anchored in the Potomac River for the ceremony. The United States Post Office Department established a special temporary ceremonial post office at the site of the memorial to postmark letters and postcards with the memorial's name and location and the date of the dedication ceremony. (More than 200,000 letters were postmarked at the ceremonial station that day.) The United States House of Representatives adjourned, because most House members were attending the dedication event. Most members of the United States Senate also attended, as did a number of foreign ambassadors.

On May 12, however, a continuous heavy rain dampened the festivities. Only about 20,000 people (rather than the anticipated 150,000) lined the city's streets to view the parade. The parade, originally estimated to incorporate 20,000 participants, held only 15,000, but still marched through Alexandria to the memorial prior to the dedication ceremony. More than 5,000 U.S. military personnel and 3,000 Knights Templar (the third part of the York Rite system of Masonic degrees) marched in the parade. The parade took more than two hours to pass the reviewing stand. Representatives from every branch of Freemasonry in the U.S. attended, and many representatives from overseas Masonic lodges also were present. President Hoover and nearly his entire Cabinet attended the dedication. When the President and his party arrived at the site, the Constitution, the three Coast Guard ships, and a battery of the 16th Field Artillery fired a 21-gun salute.

Due to the heavy rain, the dedication ceremony was moved from the portico of the memorial to the newly completed auditorium. Several items associated with Washington were used during the dedication. Among these were: The Bible which Washington used when initiated in 1752 into Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4; the trowel and gavel Washington used while laying the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building; the Bible on which Washington took the presidential oath of office; and a silver urn made by Paul Revere which contained a lock of Washington's hair. A special Masonic ritual was written for the dedication. The dedication ceremony incorporated a 4-foot (1.2 m) high model of the memorial, and the pouring of wine, oil, and corn (Masonic symbols) from gold and silver pitchers onto the model. The exactingly detailed model was manufactured by inmates at the Lorton Reformatory. The pitchers were made by metalsmith Olaf Saugstadt. The invocation was given by the Rt. Rev. W. Bertrand Stevens, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. The benediction was given by Dr. William J. Morton, Rector of Christ Church, Alexandria (the church where Washington worshipped).

Construction of the interior

Construction on some of the exterior and nearly all of the interior of the memorial continued after its May 1932 dedication. Sheet metal for interior window sashes, door jambs, and other moldings, fixtures, and fittings was provided by G.O. Robertson of Delaware; Ernest Gichner of Washington, D.C.; and the E. Van Norden Co. of New York. The Hires-Turner Glass Co. of Rosslyn, Virginia, provided the window and stained glass. The lighting fixtures were supplied by the Sterling Bronze Works, while electrical supplies were furnished by the National Electrical Supply Co. of Washington and A.L. Ladd of Alexandria. Four firms oversaw the plumbing and sewage work: Earl Riley, the D.C. Engineering Co., Potomac Clay Works, and the Thos. Somerville Co. The interior heavy hardware as well as some heavy internal equipment was supplied by Henry H. Meyer & Co. of Washington, D.C., while lighter hardware and fixtures were supplied by Worth Hulfish & Sons of Alexandria; Baldwin-Stuart Co. of Hartford, Connecticut; and Sargent & Co. of New York. Many of the non-marble floors were covered in cork (provided and installed by the David E. Kennedy Co.), and carpeting was provided by Woodward & Lothrop (the department store chain). Acoustic tile was used in many rooms to dampen the echoes produced by the granite walls. This tile was provided by the George P. Little Co.Terrazzo (faux marble flooring) work was done by the V. Foscato Co. of New York. Much of the interior woodwork was supplied by W.A. Smoot & Co. of Alexandria. Interior painting was done by the W.W. MacCallum Co. of Alexandria, while the terracotta (unglazed baked ceramic) decorations were provided by Ernest Simpson of Alexandria. The aluminum for interior work was supplied by the Aerocrete Corporation, and worked and molded into forms by the Aluminum Company of America.

But despite the immediate flurry of work on the memorial after its dedication, construction and decoration of the interior slowed significantly over the next two decades. The Great Depression and World War II left both funds and building materials in short supply. In 1935, the GWNMMA set aside the fourth floor as a "States Memorial Hall" (where each state's Grand Lodge could recognize its famous Masons), the sixth floor as a Masonic library, and the eighth floor as a museum. The third, fifth, and seventh floors had not yet been assigned a function. But these plans were not carried out. After the death of Louis Watres in June 1937, Dr. Elmer R. Arn, Past Grand Master of Ohio, was elected president of the Association as his successor. In 1939, the granite steps leading up to the portico, the walls containing the patio which surrounds the memorial, and the stone balustrade for the granite steps were installed. Several hundred plants were also added to the landscaping. In February 1941, the Association reported its first big fundraising season since the memorial's dedication, receiving $100,000 in cash donations. In 1941, the Association raised an additional $70,000, leaving it with total funds on hand of $225,000. By now, the total cost of completing the structure had risen to $6 million. The GWNMMA agreed to spend just $60,000 in 1942 in order to build a room dedicated to the Blue Lodge and the room to house the Alexandria-Washington Lodge's Washingtoniana. (The Blue Lodge Room was never built.) Rep. Sol Bloom donated an oil painting of Washington in full Masonic regalia to the memorial that year as well.

Work on the interior did not really begin in earnest until after the war. It was not until May 1945 that the room dedicated to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the Shriners) was begun. In time, the Shriners would furnish two more rooms on ground floor. In 1946, the Association received a major donation of about $154,700 which went to its maintenance fund (which now had to be at least $3 million to generate enough funds to keep the structure maintained). At the GWNMMA's annual meeting in February 1947, long-time memorial architect Harvey W. Corbett presented his plans for completing the memorial's interior, and sculptor Bryan Baker discussed his plans for a life-size statue of George Washington to adorn the memorial hall. The memorial's dining room was completed in 1947 as well, and its first use was for a meeting of the GWNMMA in February 1948. The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm (a Master Masons' social group, also known as "the Grotto") dedicated its finished room (designed to house its archives) on the third floor of the building in February 1948. The same year, President Harry S. Truman presented the memorial with a replica of the Great Seal of the United States which was 7 feet (2.1 m) in diameter and lit from within. The sign had originally topped of the United States Government Printing Office headquarters, but had been damaged by lightning. Removed and listed as scrap, a Freemason noticed the sign in a government warehouse and asked that it to be donated to the memorial. A presentation ceremony was set for June 24, 1948. Truman's arrival at the presentation was significantly delayed as he spent the morning giving the orders to begin the Berlin airlift.)

At some point after the completion of the Grotto room, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania sponsored the completion of the memorial's sixth floor main library. The nucleus of the library was donated by the widow of Rae John Lemert, Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Montana, in February 1931.

By September 1949, the memorial was still "nowhere near finished." None of the tower rooms in floors three through nine were finished, and the observation deck was still under construction. (The Scottish Rite had agreed to fund the work on the observation platform.) The observation deck was accessible only by a circular stairway. In late 1949, two elevators were installed on the north and south side of the building. To avoid piercing the second floor's memorial hall, the elevators slanted inward at 7.5 degrees. They were 61 feet (19 m) apart on the first floor, but only 4.5 feet (1.4 m) feet apart at the observation deck. They were the only slanting elevators in the world when installed. Other decorative changes were made by late 1949 as well. A woven Persian carpet, the largest in the world and worth $1 million, was donated to the memorial. Bryan Baker's sculpture of George Washington was changed from marble to bronze.


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