Sunday, September 16, 2012

The George Washington National Masonic Monument and Museum

Just across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, the George Washington National Masonic Monument and Museum stands atop a high hill. No one stepping off the train at King St. could miss it, although all may not know what this strange, almost out of place, building contains. The gigantic Masonic symbol in front of it may give non-masons a feeling that it is only for Freemasons, but any who make the climb up the stairs to the top of the hill will find that all are welcome here.

 The building was inspired by the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The original was built in 280 BCE and was the tallest structure in the world at the time (393-450 ft tall).

 While the fire of the original lighthouse was a guide to the ancient sailors of the Mediterranean, the Masonic Memorial stands as a reminder of the life of our nation’s founder. His life was nothing less of a burning flame lit by the high ideals that drove him. Modern day politicians make for a sad comparison.

                        The Washington Monument in D.C. can be seen in the distance.
                                    Taken from the top of the observation deck.

 The memorial stands at 331 feet (101 m), and offers an unbeatable view of Alexandria, and even Washington D.C. can be seen in the distance. Construction began in 1922 but was not completed until 1932. The interior was under construction until 1970, and the exhibits are still growing. The reason for this is that the entire memorial was built without taking out any type of loans; everything was done by donations from Masons across the country.

 Within this impressive building, there are many intriguing artifacts from George Washington’s life.





 The history of this plain wooden cup is more bizarre than one would suspect from looking at it. In 1837, Washington was in need of a new coffin due to flooding. The undertaker, Benjamin W. Wheatley, used some of the wood from the original coffin to make this cup. It is unknown why he made a cup out of used coffin wood or if anyone has ever actually drank from it.



 This chair was specially made for Washington. It was the chair he used when he presided over Masonic meetings. Surprisingly, it is still used, but only once per year. Above it is one of the very few portraits of Washington that he actually sat for (apparently, he loathed having his portrait taken).

 On one floor, they had an assortment of mannequins costumed in different Masonic outfits. Here are a few:

Hiram, King of Tyre Costume


                                                     


                                           Worthy Matron Gown and Jewel



My wife asked me how I knew about this place when we left, and it struck me that I really don’t remember how I found out about it. At any rate, it was the unexpected highlight of our trip to D.C. The entire monument has such a peaceful and calm feeling about it that simply cannot be conveyed over the internet. I feel that you get a very good feeling of who George Washington was and stood for at this museum.

                                 The giant bronze statue of George Washington
                                          in the main room of the museum

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 Address: 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, VA 22301

 Official Website: http://gwmemorial.org/

 Note: For those planning a trip here, I would strongly recommend that you arrive in time for one of the guided tours. Unguided guests cannot go to the upper floors or the observation deck.

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