October 22, 2016
Most Worshipful Grandmaster, Grand Lodge Team, Distinguished Guests, Friends, Ladies, Gentlemen, Brethren All,
It is not the aesthetics of this building that matters, but the proper construction of its foundation that will bear the test of time.
Our Ancient Craft’s history can be likened to a pond, where a ripple effect can impact the entire ecosystem from one mere pebble thrown, though it’s rings in the water will cover a distance far mightier than its density. That’s how mankind’s history works – simple events influencing other events as it significantly produces one milestone after another.
The year was 1905 in this city of Spokane when a masonic temple was built to accommodate the growing interest in Freemasonry.
The same temple was expanded in 1925, which coincided with the peak of the fraternity, especially in this country during which time over 12% of the adult male population were members of the craft. The numbers generated by the strong interest produced enough dues that allowed many Grand Lodges to build on truly magnificent Masonic proportions.
As for the original Spokane Masonic Temple, now known as Riverside Place, it may not come as a surprise how Spokane Lodge #34 membership had grown from 16 members in 1880 to over 1200 by the year 1925. The total number of Masons in the State had grown from 1089 in 1880 when the Lodge was formed, to 46,409 by December 31, 1925. In addition to the growth of the Spokane Lodge itself, a number of new Lodges had been formed by the end of 1925 bringing the total Masonic population of the City to a total of 3,725 Master Masons.
Considered one of the grandest fraternal lodges in the western part of the Unites States and a principal structure in the Riverside Avenue National Historic District, the Spokane Masonic Temple was representative of the City Beautiful Movement as it was applied and adopted in this city.
After extensive research, other wise known as a Google search, I learned that the City Beautiful Movement was a reform philosophy of North American architecture and urban planning that flourished at the tail-end of the 1800s. The intentions behind this movement were to introduce beautification and monumental grandeur within cities, thus creating moral and civic virtue among urban populations. Advocates of the philosophy believed that such beautification promoted a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life. However, some critics were apprehensive, recognizing the movement as overly concerned with aesthetics at the expense of true social reform.
On the contrary, most of the influential and prominent citizens of this city drew on their talents during its construction and period of development. This was a true reflection of the need and importance of the fraternal and social organizations to the mainstream community to keep up with the growing demand for added social interactions.
After a century of fraternal existence in the community, we decided to part ways with the famed structure that exemplifies the disciplined classicism that evolved from the Beau-Arts movement and the influence of other architectural styles of that period.
This morning we brought with us the same Landmark as before, a synthesis of virtues of the Ancient Craft in its genuine form by bringing it under the same hat of none splintered way of thinking, all in harmony together as we solemnly lay the cornerstone for this New Masonic Temple. A building whose masonic identity resides within its tiled recesses with the spirit animatedly flowing from those emblems as it typically expressed the individuality of our temples.
As we cheerfully conform to the ancient usages and established customs of the fraternity, we are presented with the three precious jewels of each station in the lodge, the square, a level and a plumb to constantly remind all present of its Moral & Masonic uses in our daily lives such us virtue, equality and rectitude.
This was followed by the Masonic Consecration of the lodge, a deeply symbolic ceremony during which the lodge following ancient custom, was anointed with corn, wine and oil: corn representing abundance and plenty,
wine the symbol of strength, and gladness and oil representing peace and joy.
With a continued desire to be the difference in promoting the honor and interest of the craft agreeably to its ancient forms and usage, allow me to share with you an excerpt from the original oration given by W. H. Ludden, Grand Orator, at the Cornerstone Laying of the Spokane Masonic Temple on October 6, 1904:
As the square angles of this stone symbolize virtue and its cubical form represents truth and perfection, so the foundation of Masonry and the perfect character of every Mason is based on virtue and truth.
With pleasure and gratitude, we meet here today to lay sure and lasting this cornerstone that there may be erected upon it a Masonic temple from which shall go forth a brotherhood of men to spread everywhere the eternal principles of truth and brotherly love. It shall be their purpose to smooth the rugged places in life, provide for the widow and orphan, and point out every man the right way. This stone will last for ages, but when the temple reared upon it has decayed and the stone itself crumbled to dust, the sublime principles of our order will still exist in their sublime significance.
A temple is reared upon a foundation rock, but the Masonic life and character is founded upon the principles of truth. No one shall enter here except he place his trust in the supreme architect of the universe, and the Holy Bible, the chief cornerstone of our order. How true it is that within this temple when completed will be cherished those virtues which adorn society and make the work a heaven even to those who cannot enter.
There are many temples of art in which we can cultivate our tastes, there are temples of science in which we can familiarize our minds with the works of nature and nature’s God, there are temples of religion in which we can prepare our hearts for the sacred communion of saints. But in all these, ambition may stir the passion or differences of opinion create contention and discord, destroying that peace without which earth has no joy and heaven can have no existence.
In the temple of Masonry only those human qualities which lie at the foundation of human brotherhood are called into action. Before the altar all animosities are laid aside. If man is to learn anywhere faith in his fellow men, careful scrutiny of his own conduct charity, liberality, fraternal love, kind consideration, it is in the courts of that temple.
It is because they who enter in pass on to good influences and noble purposes and kind associations that this temple of ours becomes like that ‘not made with hands.’ The completion of this building will be a permanent addition and ornament to our city and the lessons taught within its walls will bring and influence to our citizens that will be an eternal benefit.
The foundation of our temple we have now laid. With solemnities suited to the occasion, with prayers to Almighty God for his blessing, and in the midst of this assembly we have begun the work. We trust it will be prosecuted and that springing from a broad foundation, rising high in massive solidity and grandeur it may remain as long as heaven permits the works of man to last, a fit emblem of Masonic thrift and of the gratitude of those who have reared it.
We know, indeed, that the record of progress is most safely deposited in the universal remembrance of mankind. We know that if we could cause this structure to ascend, not only till it reaches the skies, but till it pierced them, its broad surfaces could still contain but part of that which, in an age of knowledge, hath already been spread over earth, and which history charges itself with making known to all future times.
We know that no inscription less broad than the earth itself can carry information of the principles we commemorate where it has not already gone; and that no structure which shall not outlive the duration of letters and knowledge among men can prolong the memory of our order.
But our object by this edifice is to show our own deep sense of the value and importance of the achievements of brotherly love and truth, and by presenting this temple to the eye to keep alive similar sentiments and to foster a constant regard for the principles of Masonry.
Human beings are composed not only of reason, but of imagination and sentiment; and that is neither wasted nor misapplied which is appropriated to the purpose of giving right direction to sentiments. Let it not be supposed that our object is to perpetuate a mere building, or even to cherish this particular spot. It is higher, purer and nobler.
We consecrate our work to the spirit of eternal truth, and we wish that the light of peace may rest upon it forever. We come as Masons to mark a spot which must forever be dear to us and our posterity. We wish that this structure may proclaim the magnitude and importance of the principles of Masonry to every class and every age.
We wish that infancy may learn the purpose of its erection from maternal lips and that weary and withered age may behold it and be solaced by the recollections it suggests. We wish that labor may look up here and be proud in this midst of its toil. We wish that in those days of sadness and sorrow that must come on us the desponding hearts may turn hitherward and be assured that the foundations of truth and brotherly love will stand strong.
We wish that this temple rising toward heaven among the pointed spires of so many temples dedicated to God may contribute also to produce in all minds a pious feeling of dependence and gratitude. We hope that this structure will stand years and years like the lighthouse on the shore, warning all who behold from danger and leading all with a pure and holy light to a life of peace and brotherly love.
On behalf of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington we thank you for being a part of this auspicious event and we wish you all the success.
W. George Franco – Grand Orator 2017