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the Masonic Temple.
This report was written on April 2, 1980.
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Masonic Temple is located at 329 S. Tryon St. in Charlotte, N.C.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner and
occupant of the property:
The present owner and occupant of the property is:
Masonic Temple Association
327 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, N.C. 28202
Telephone: (704) 332-7862
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map which depicts the location of the property.
Click on the map to browse
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
deed on this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 290 at
Page 326. The Tax Parcel Number of the property is 125-051-01.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property:
The initial grand lodge of Freemasonry was established in London, England,
in 1717. This fraternal organization, officially known as the Ancient Free
and Accepted Masons, was brought to the American colonies by English masons
during the first three decades of the eighteenth century. The First Lodge of
Boston, organized in 1733 by Henry Price, is the oldest Masonic grand lodge
in the United States. The movement prospered in this country, counting among
its participants such eminent citizens as Benjamin Franklin and George
Washington. Freemasonry draws its inspiration from the rituals and
ceremonies of the guilds of stone workers or masons in medieval Europe.
Believing that God is the "Great Architect of the Universe," masons obligate
themselves to advance the brotherhood of man and to live in accordance with
the highest ethical standards. Men who accept any monotheistic faith may
The origins of the Masonic Temple in Charlotte date from May 19, 1869,
when the three lodges in this community created the Masonic Temple
Association. 2 Samuel Wittkowsky, a leading Jewish resident of
Charlotte, headed the organization, the sole purpose of which was to secure
funds for the construction of a temple. Its initial fund-raising event was a
Masonic Fair and Festival, which occurred in July 1869 on the grounds of
First Presbyterian Church. On December 28, 1874, the consecration of the
initial temple transpired. Situated in leased quarters on the third floor of
the Hutchinson Building in the first block of N. Tryon St., it served the
Charlotte masons until January 1902, when they occupied the top floor of the
Piedmont Building on S. Tryon St. In 1904, the Masonic lodges in this
community purchased a lot at W. Trade and Church Sts. on which to build
their temple. The Masonic Temple was not erected at this location, however.
3 On January 22, 1912, the Masonic Temple Association voted
instead to sell its property on W. Trade St. and to build on a parcel at S.
Tryon and Seconds Sts. which it had bought from Edward Dilworth Latta,
president of the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company. 4
The Charlotte masons had hoped to occupy their temple by early 1913, but
plans were delayed for almost a year because of a disagreement with the City
concerning the location of the southwestern corner of the lot. Finally, on
January 2, 1913, the dispute having been settled, the Masonic Temple
Association announced that it would move ahead with construction. 5
Charles Christian Hook and Willard G. Rogers, two local architects who had
formed a partnership in 1907, were awarded the contract for the Masonic
Temple on July 24, 1912. 6
C. C. Hook (1870-1938) was the first architect who resided in Charlotte.
A native of Wheeling, W. Va., and graduate of Washington University, he
moved to this community in 1891 to teach in the Charlotte Graded School,
which was located at the corner of South Blvd. and E. Morehead St. 7
Most of his early commissions were for structures in
Dilworth, the streetcar suburb which the Charlotte Consolidated
Construction Company, locally known as the Four Cs, opened on May 20, 1891.
8 Among the significant edifices which he designed were the
Charlotte City Hall, the
clubhouse of the Charlotte Woman's Club and
White Oaks or the James B. Duke House
on Hermitage Rd. 9
Indeed, C. C. Hook occupies a place of preeminent importance in the
architectural history of Charlotte, N.C.
It was altogether fitting and proper that Hooks & Rogers selected the
Egyptian Revival style for the Charlotte Masonic Temple. Tradition holds
that stonemasonry originated in ancient Egypt among the builders of the
great pyramids and that it was there that the Hebrews learned the skills
which enabled them to erect the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. 10
In the United States, the Egyptian Revival style attained its greatest
popularity in the 1830's, manifesting itself in such notable edifices as the
Philadelphia County Prison, the New York Halls of Justice and the County
Courthouse at Newark, New Jersey. 11 Not surprisingly, the motif
enjoyed an enduring popularity among Masonic organizations.
A gala ceremony occurred in Charlotte on March 4, 1914, when masons from
across North Carolina joined with their local counterparts in witnessing the
laying of the cornerstone of the Masonic Temple. 12 The new
temple will become an edifice of adorning beauty to one of the city's
principal streets and Charlotte will be proud of the moment it lifts its
proud head toward the heavens," the Evening Chronicle declared.
13 The Charlotte News predicted that the building would be "one
of the crowning glories of the city." 14 The Charlotte
Observer called it the "Only exclusively Masonic temple of distinctive
architecture in the South." 15 The most compelling statements
concerning the building were made by Francis D. Winston, past Grand Master
of the masons of North Carolina. "Other great buildings, designed for
commercial uses, may rise here from time to time in the years that are to
come. The world can do without them," he intoned, "but the world today is
demanding - more than it ever demanded - the idea that every man owes
something to every other man as his brother. This building will stand
through the ages for the eternal principle of the brotherhood of man."
16 In the opinion of the Evening Chronicle, the Masonic Temple
was "a mighty fortress." 17
The J. A. Jones Construction Company erected the building. The cost was
just over $90,000. 18 Tragedy struck the Masonic Temple in the
early morning hours of March 4, 1937, on the twenty-third anniversary of the
cornerstone ceremony. Flames engulfed the structure, completely destroying
the interior. Every available piece of fire-fighting equipment was
summoned," The Charlotte Observer reported. 19 The Masonic
Temple Association considered relocating its facilities in the suburbs,
where adequate parking could be provided. 20 Happily, it decided
instead to rebuild the temple within the extant walls. The architect was
Willard G. Rogers, formerly of Hook & Rogers. Construction began in February
1938, and the temple reopened on October 11, 1938. 21
1 William James Hughan, "Freemasonry" in the Encyclopedia
Britannica Eleventh Edition (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New
York, 1910) Vol. XI, pp. 78 85. Hereafter cited as Encyclopedia
2 The Masonic lodges in Charlotte in 1869 were Charlotte
Chapter No. 39 Royal Arch Masons, Phalanx Lodge No. 31, and the Excelsior
Lodge No. 261 F. & A. M.
3 Historical Sketch of the Masonic Temple Association of
the City of Charlotte (Charlotte, 1950). Hereafter cited as
4 The Charlotte News (January 23, 1912), p. 2. The
Charlotte Observer (January 24, 1912), p. 5. The Evening Chronicle
(January 23, 1912), p. 1.
5 The Charlotte News (January 3, 1913), p. 7. The
Charlotte Observer (January 3, 1913), p. 6.
6 Historical Sketch. The Evening Chronicle (March 4,
1914), p. 1.
7 The Charlotte News (September 17, 1938), p. 12.
8 The Charlotte News (May 20, 1891), p. 1.
9 Jack O. Boyte & Dan L. Morrill, "Survey
and Research Report on Lynnwood for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Properties Commission," (January 5, 1977); Jack O. Boyte & Dan L.
Morrill, "A Survey and Research Report on the Mecklenburg County Courthouse
for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission," (April 5,
1977); Ruth Little-Stokes and Dan L. Morrill, "A
Survey and Research Report on the Clubhouse of the Charlotte Woman's Club,"
(April 1, 1978).
10 Encyclopedia Britannica.
11 Marcus Whiffen, American Architecture Since 1780 A Guide
to the Styles (The M. I. T. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1969), pp. 48-51.
12 The Evening Chronicle (March 3, 1914), p. 1. For a
photograph of the ceremony, see the Evening Chronicle March 5, 1914,
13 The Evening Chronicle (March 3, 1914), p. 4.
14 The Charlotte News (March 4, 1914), p. 4.
15 The Charlotte Observer (March 5, 1914), pp. 1,3 & 7.
16 The Evening Chronicle (March 5, 1914), pp. 1 & 6.
For a text of Winston's speech, see The Charlotte News (March 14,
1914), p. 7.
17 The Evening Chronicle (March 4, 1914), pp. 1,5 & 8.
18 Historical Sketch
7. A brief architectural description of the property: This report
contains an architectural description of the property prepared by Laura A.
W. Phillips, architectural historian.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria set forth in N. C. G. S. 160A-399.4:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Masonic Temple does possess special historic significance in
terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
following considerations: 1) it is the only building in Charlotte which
was erected to serve as a Masonic temple; 2) it is the only example of the
Egyptian Revival style in Charlotte-Mecklenburg; 3) it was designed by
Hook & Rogers; C. C. Hook is an architect of local and regional
importance; 4) it serves as the symbolic landmark of the Charlotte masons.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission judges that the architectural
description included in this report demonstrates that the property known
as the Masonic Temple meets this criterion. It is true that the interior
of the structure was destroyed by fire in March 1937. However, Willard G.
Rogers, a co-designer with C. C. Hook of the initial interior, supervised
the refurbishment of the building; and, while not restoring the interior,
he did remain sensitive to the initial design. The exterior dates from
1914. The Evening Chronicle stated on March 5, 1914, that the
Masonic Temple in Charlotte, "for significance and conformity to the
Masonic traditions," would be "unequaled south of Washington." (The
Evening Chronicle (March 5, 1914), pp. 1 & 6.)
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply annually for an automatic
deferral of 50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the
property which becomes Historic property." The current Ad Valorem tax
appraisal of the .234 acres of land is $255,000. The current Ad Valorem tax
appraisal of the building is $465,000. The property is exempted from the
payment of Ad Valorem taxes. The building contains 30,000 square feet of
floor space. The land is zoned B3.
Jack O. Boyte & Dan L. Morrill, "A
Survey and Research Report on Lynnwood for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Properties Commission ," (January 5, 1977).
Jack O. Boyte & Dan L. Morrill, "A Survey and Research Report on the
Mecklenburg County Courthouse for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic
Properties Commission ", April 5, 1977).
The Charlotte News.
The Charlotte Observer.
The Evening Chronicle.
Historical Sketch of the Masonic Temple Association of the City of
Charlotte (Charlotte, 1950).
The Charlotte Observer (March 4, 1937), p. 1. For photographs of
the fire, see The Charlotte News (March 4, 1937), p. 1. and The
Charlotte Observer (March 4, 1937), p. 1.
The Charlotte Observer (March 5, 1937), p. 1.
William James Hughan, "Freemasonry" in the Encyclopedia Britannica
Eleventh Edition (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York, 1910)
Vol. XI, pp. 78-85.
Ruth Little-Stokes & Dan L. Morrill, "A
Survey and Research Report on the Clubhouse of the Charlotte Woman's Club
for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission", (April 1,
Records of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds Office.
Records of the Mecklenburg County Tax Office.
Date of Preparation of this Report: April 2, 1980.
Prepared by: Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission
3500 Shamrock Dr.
Charlotte, N.C. 28215
Telephones (704) 332-2726
The Masonic Temple is a monumental Egyptian Revival building prominently
located on the corner of South Tryon and Second Streets in downtown
Charlotte. The architectural firm of Hook & Rogers designed the Masonic
Temple, which was built in 1913-1914 by contractor J. A. Jones. A disastrous
fire on March 4, 1937 gutted the building, leaving only the four exterior
walls. Plans were immediately started for the rebuilding of the Temple under
the supervision of Willard G. Rogers as architect and with J. J. McDevitt &
Co. serving as general contractor. The rebuilding project began in February,
1938 and a dedication service for the completed project was held on October
11, 1938. Thus the Temple as it presently stands is the result of a 1913
exterior design with major rebuilding -- primarily on the interior -- in
In planning their Temple, the Masons were striving for a structure which
would be reminiscent of King Solomon's Temple, as described in the Bible in
1 Kings, Chapter 6 and 2 Chronicles, Chapter 3. In doing so the temple would
symbolically reflect the Masonic goal of constructing better men of its
members, creating "human temples." The simple but elegant massiveness of the
Egyptian style seemed appropriate for fulfilling these requirements.
With its massive quality, smooth wall surfaces, battered walls with
narrow windows, roll-and-gorge cornice and decorative details, the Masonic
Temple is a typical representation of the Egyptian Revival style. This style
was first popular in America between 1830-1850 and was again revived in the
twentieth century, primarily in the 1920s. The Egyptian Revival was never an
especially widespread and prolific style, but rather one which tended to be
used in specialized cases where the symbolic nature of the style could be
played to the fullest. With the occurrence of buildings in the Egyptian
Revival style being therefore rather limited, the surprise of finding this
building on South Tryon Street, coupled with the boldness of its design,
makes the Masonic Temple one of most dramatic buildings in downtown
The primary exterior decoration of this four-story building is
concentrated on the South Tryon Street facade, with secondary attention paid
to the Second Street facade. The left side and rear of the building are
devoid of decoration and are purely functional in design.
The South Tryon Street facade is sheathed in smooth
ashlar blocks. Verticality is emphasized in the battered walls (creating
perspective distortion), broad and narrow pilasters, narrow-paned windows,
and heavy lotus bud columns which flank either side of the entrance and rise
to half the height of the building. These typically Egyptian columns, with
their lotus flower and basket weave bud capitals, are topped by spheres -a
terrestrial sphere above the left column and a celestial sphere above the
right. Between the columns is the main entrance, which seems a miniature
version of the primary facade itself with its battered jambs and
roll-and-gorge cornice, this time accented by a lotus blossom design. The
narrow pilasters which extend upward from the entrance way lead the eye to
the great vulture-and-sun-disk symbol -- Egyptian sign of protection --
found just beneath the roll-and-gorge cornice.
The Second Street facade carries out the Egyptian theme with elegant
simplicity. It retains the roll-and gorge cornice and ashlar base of the
Tryon Street facade as well as two entrances which are essentially identical
to the main entrance. The remainder of the wall surface is a combination of
tan brickwork, sash windows and a minimum of stone trim. This facade is
eight bays in depth, divided by brick pilasters which terminate at their
upper ends with banded caps. A strongly vertical feeling is created by these
pilasters which dominate over the horizontality of the slightly recessed
window spandrels. Interestingly enough, the resulting effect is similar to
some of the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright as seen especially in his
Larkin Building (Buffalo, N. Y.) of 1904.
Upon entering the Masonic Temple, one is immediately struck by the
magnificently detailed Egyptian Revival vestibule. The richness of its
Egyptian qualities are seen both in the details and in the colors used. The
walls are deep red, the corner pilasters are bright yellow, the doorways are
crisp white and the other decoration is polychromed. The corner pilasters
are topped by Egyptian male heads. Encircling the top of the room is a
lushly decorated coved cornice with geometric and lotus flower designs. The
doorways of the vestibule have battered jambs and a roll-and-gorge cornice.
The transom area of the doorway leading to a side waiting room features the
vulture-and-sun-disk symbol, artistically polychromed. The waiting room to
which this doorway leads is generally more classical in feeling, with its
pilastered doors, garlanded panels and Adamesque medallions.
Most of the interior is divided into rather nondescript meeting rooms and
offices, although in several of the more prominent rooms special attention
has been given to details. The main lobby of the building on the first floor
is of generally classical design with heavy Doric pilasters and full
entablature with triglyph and metope frieze encircling the room. Behind this
is a large dining room and kitchen. The lodge hall on the second floor has
columns and/or pilasters with simple acanthus capitals at front and rear and
a colonnade of the same type of columns along either side. On the third
floor the former Scottish Rite room features an auditorium with seating for
approximately 300 and a stage with decorative classical surround. On the
fourth floor is a room for other affiliate organizations. It features a
slightly arched ceiling and a pointed-arch arcade along either long side.
Although much of the space in the Masonic Temple is currently being under
utilized, the building -- both interior and exterior -- has been well
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Photo Gallery 6: Gone But Not Forgotten: Lost Buildings of Mecklenburg