Sunday, February 21, 2010

First in the Hearts of his Countrymen

Tomorrow (February 22, 2010) marks the 278th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, Freemason and the first president of the United States of America. Tomorrow also marks the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association and the birth of the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

The following was paraphrased from the George Washington Masonic Memorial web site:

In 1909, Charles H. Callahan, Senior Warden of Alexandria-Washington Lodge, purchased several lots on Shuters Hill, in Alexandria, VA for the purpose of establishing a fire proof repository for many of the artifacts donated to the Lodge by Washington's family and friends. On February 22, 1910, Joseph W. Eggleston, the Grand Master of Virginia, invited every Grand Master in the United States to assemble in Alexandria-Washington Lodge for the purpose of forming as association to plan and build a suitable Memorial to George Washington, the Mason. Thus was born the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association.

Ten years after the first official meeting of the Association, the concept of a colossal building as a Memorial "lighthouse" to Washington was approved by the Grand Lodges of the United States. The site was selected because it followed the ancient tradition for the location of temples on hilltops or mountains. It was also located on land with which General Washington was familiar - it was the very spot once proposed by Thomas Jefferson as the ideal site for the nation's Capitol.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Memorial took place on June 5, 1922. Louis A. Watres, President of the Memorial Association and Past Grand Master of Pennsylvania, and Charles H. Callahan, Past Master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, and a future Grand Master of Virginia participated in the ceremony. Despite the great expense, the Memorial Association was determined not to borrow money. Construction only proceeded as money was collected for each stage of the project.

On November 1, 1923, the Memorial's cornerstone was dedicated in a Masonic ceremony. President Calvin Coolidge, former President and Chief Justice William H. Taft and numerous other dignitaries performed the ceremony before a crowd of thousands of Freemasons from around the nation. The onset of the Great Depression did not stop work on the Memorial. For over 10 years, Freemasons steadily and faithfully contributed to the construction of the Memorial. On May 12, 1932, the bicentennial year of George Washington's birth, the dedication of the Memorial took place with President Herbert Hoover participating.

After World War II, work on the Memorial's interior began in earnest. By 1970, the George Washington Masonic Memorial was completed. In 1999, the large square and compasses were added to the front lawn, a visible sign to the Masonic nature of the Memorial. A repository of many artifacts and the history of American Freemasons, the Memorial remains a lasting monument to George Washington, the Man, the Mason and Father of our Country.

Today, the annual meeting of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America is taking place in Arlington, VA. Tomorrow, in honor of the occasion of the Memorial Association’s 100th Anniversary, conference delegates will be transported to the Memorial to join in on the celebration. Visitors will have an opportunity to witness the unveiling of a new portrait of George Washington as a Freemason, by local artist, Christopher Erney; they will see the Memorial’s new logo, also designed by Christopher Erney; and can visit the newly established American Freemasonry exhibit created by Mark Tabbert. At that time, a recreation of the famous Life Magazine cover photo of October 8, 1956 showing the Grand Masters of the United States jurisdictions lined up on the steps of the Memorial, will be taken.

If you find yourself in the DC area, come join in this momentous event.

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