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Masonic Stones of the Washington Monument

Blake Bowden

Staff Member

Brother Gary Scoff, Past Master of Naval Lodge No. 4 and Chief Historian of the National Park Service in the National Capital area, reports that the Washington National Monument Society in 1851 and 1853 solicited members of the Masonic Order nationally through the Grand Lodges, to make contributions to a fund that was used for the construction of the Washington Monument.

According to Brother Scoff the Society solicited each state and territory to present a carved memorial stone for placement in the interior of the monument walls. Soon thereafter stones began to arrive from across the country, and by 1855 the Society had installed 92 commemorative stones of diverse size and composition. Among the stones collected were 22 of Masonic origin.

In ascending the Monument from ground level the first Masonic stone encountered is that of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia at the 50-foot landing. Adjacent to it is the stone of Naval Lodge No. 4 of the District of Columbia. Both of these stones are of marble. The rest of the Masonic stones are described by Brother Scott as follows: "Masonic stones again appear at the ninth landing at the 110 foot level with the marble stones of the Grand Lodges of Ohio, New York and Kentucky. D. Boiler of Cincinnatti carved the Ohio stone which contains a compass and square, an all-seeing eye, and a sword resting on a book. The New York stone was carved by Owens and Newland of Utica, New York and contains a compass and square. The Kentucky stone cites Washington as a Christian Mason and contains the compass and square, all-seemg eye, and sword upon the constitution. W. Strobridge of Frankfort, Kentucky was the stone carver.

At the 120-foot level on the tenth landing is the unadorned stone of Patmos Lodge No. 70 Masons, Ellicott City, Maryland. It is dated February 22, 1852, and made of rough granite. The eleventh level at 130 feet contains the native marble stone of Mount Lebanon Lodge, No. 226, Ancient York Masons, Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The stone is dated 1851. Nearby is the ornamented marble stone of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, containing the names of donors and Grand Lodge officials. Alex Gaddess, a member of the committee, was the ''maker." The stone is dated 1850 and contains a carved figure of Father Time in supplication before an altar. His eyes are fixed on a star in the heavens, and he is pointing to the open book on the altar with his left hand. He holds a scythe. An hour glass rests on the ground. Also at this level is the marble stone of Masons of the Washington Lodge Number 21 of the city of New York. Carved on the stone are a smiling sun, a plumb, a trowel, a triangle containing the letter G, and a square and compass on a Bible.

The twelfth level at 140 feet contains three Masonic stones. The state of Alabama contributed an interesting Alabama marble stone containing what must have been the seal of its Grand Lodge. Masonic symbols are arrayed in the circle of the seal around and within an archway resting on two columns. The inscription states that the stone was presented by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Atlcient Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama, Dec. 6th, A.L. 5849 (1849).

The Masons of Georgia contributed a Georgia marble stone with a 15-inch shield containing a raised circle 7 inches in diameter. The circle contains an all seeing eye and a compass and square. The inscription reads: The Grand Lodge ofGeorgia. Founded 1735 A.D. Fratrem Meminisse. On the raised seal is Prosunt Omnibus. The stone is signed by J.B. Artope who may have been the carver.

The Grand Lodge of Illinois sent a very dramatic stone showing a wall of finished ashlar. containing within it an archway supported by two columns. Within the archway is a bearded man, perhaps Father Time, owing to the hour glass at his feet. In front of him is a young maiden standing before a broken column. She holds an acacia branch in her right hand. In her left she grips a mallet resting on an open book. The bearded figure of Time seems to be stroking her hair. J. Jewel has sighed the tablet and may have been the sculptor-carver. The stone is dated 1853.

Moving up to the fourteenth landing at 160 feet there is a marble Masonic stone from Lafayette Lodge No. 64, F.& A.M., New York City. Septernber 16 A.L. 5853 A.D. 1853. The stone contains a square and compass under the words, "our tribute". At the fifteenth landing, on the 170-foot level is a granite Stone from Washington Lodge F.& A M., Roxbury, Massachusetts. The stone is actually from a later period and arrived at the monument in 1871. With the stone came a letter to John Carrol Brent, secretary of the Society, from John F. Newton, Boston, Massachusetts, May 10, 1871: "And may we but express the hope that the step our Lodge has taken be but the initiatory one, which will give the completion of the monument a new impetus. And I hope our example will be followed by other lodges and Masonic institutions throughout our beloved country And feeling a deep interest in the completion of the monument I beg to make a suggestion, and that is this, of your society making an appeal to each Lodge, and Masonic Institution throughout the country. I think it would meet with a generous and hearty response."

On the 180-foot level, at the sixteenth landing, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania contributed a richly carved marble stone. Prominent upon the stone is carved an arch and keystone. The keystone contains a seal with four quarterings with a lion, a man, a cow, and an eagle, traditional emblems of the four apostles. Above the seal on the keystone is "Holiness unto the Lord", below the seal is "From the Keystone State, A.D. 1851 A.L. 5851." Above the keystone two angels guard with uplifted wings a small ark of the covenant. To the right of the arch is a crumbling wall surmounted by masonic tools set agamst a wooded hill. To the left is a wall of finished ashlar surmounted by a masonic altar and tools against another wooded hill. In the clouds on a banner to either side of the keystone is the inscription "Ad majorem Supremi Architect Glorium".

At the 200-foot level, eighteenth landing, Virginia presented two Masonic stones. The first is presented by St. John's Lodge No. 36, F.&.A.M., Richmond. The stone is granite with a raised marble Bible carved with a compass and square. The stone is signed J.T. Rogers, Richmond. The stone from the Grand Lodge of Virginia is granite with a raised border and also contains a carved Bible with compass and square. It bears the inscription: "By the Grand Lodge of Accepted, Ancient and Free Masons of Virginia. Lo' She gave to this Republic, the Chief Corner Stone. Aug. 4 A.L. 5854." J.T. Rodgers, Richmond, has signed the lower border.

Moving up to the nineteenth landing at 210 feet, the Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & AM. contributed a simple granite stone from an Iowa quarry and squared by an Iowa craftsman. It was shipped prepaid as a gift of 80,000 Free and Accepted Masons of Iowa, and was received and acknowledged by Charles Stanbury on June 22, 1877.

The Grand Lodge of the State of Mississippi contributed a carved sandstone stone "to their W. Brother George Washington." The stone has a raised border. A compass and square and an arm upraised with a mallet appear on the left and right side of the inscription. A letter from Wm. Miller, Grand Secretary, Natchez, Mississippi to E. Whittlesey which is dated August 10, 1854, acknowledged the receipt of the stone at the Monument and remitted the cost of shipping, $7.50.

The stone given by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is the most fanciful of all. The lettering is an accentuated script with ornate characters. The inscription reads "Ad glorium fratis nostris et patris patriae." The various Masonic items are given exaggerated shapes. A coffin adorns the lower portion. An exaggerated eye with a bushy eyebrow peeks from within an ornate letter G. According to the American Organ, September 5, 1856, the stone was done in the marble yard ofAlexander Rutherford, by a young man and apprentice. The stone arrived on the Monument grounds September 5, 1856.

The last masonic stone is at the 230-foot level, the twenty-first landing. It is marble and presented by the Grand Lodge of the State of Florida. Its raised border creates a frame effect for the simple compass and square in the center of the stone.

By 1854, the Washmgton National Monument society had exhausted its funds and all work stopped at the 150-foot level. Turmoil withtn the Society, bad economic times, and the fury of the coming Civil War and its aftermath halted monument construction for 22 years. There is still a discernible line between courses of differing stonework indicating the resumption of Monument construction, funded now by Congress, on August 2, 1876, and spurred on by the centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence. The Army Corps of Engineers carried on construction of the monument until its completion in 1885. Whether or not Society Secretary John Carrol Brent was moved by the letter from the Lodge in Roxbury, Massachusetts, he began to again send another solicitation to Masonic bodies and other fraternal orders. Between July and September 1874 over two hundred pledges were received by the Society from every part of the country, primarily from the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, and other fraternal bodies. By April 15, 1875, 211 Masonic lodges across the country had responded to Brent's call including the Grand Lodges of Florida, Illmois, Ohio, and Massachusetts, the last three named Grand Lodges giving $1,000 each. Mithras Lodge of Perfection, A.A.S.R., Washington D.C. made a contribution as did 24 Royal Arch Chapters and 5 Commanderies. These stones today may be seen by the visitor who takes scheduled tours walking down the interior staircase of the monument. The walk down is a bit long and tedious and suitable only for the athletically inclined. Monument visitors may inquire about these walking tours by calling the Washington Monument Ranger Station at 202-426-6841. The National Park Service hopes to install a glass wmdow elevator so that all visitors may view the 193 memorial stones as they make the five-minute elevator ascension to the top of the Monument.

Source: Quoted from the Spring 1997 issue of The Voice of Freemasonry,
published by the Grand Lodge, F.&.A.M., of the District of Columbia


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