History of the Memorial
On February 22, 1910, representatives from twenty-six Grand Lodges gathered in Alexandria, Virginia, for the purpose of forming an Association to plan and build”a suitable Memorial Temple to George Washington, the Mason." On that day the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association was formed. 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.
American Freemasons actively supported the endeavor through a nationwide fundraising initiative, and ground was broken in 1922. A year later, 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.
Over the next decade, Freemasons faithfully contributed to the construction of the Memorial. On May 12, 1932, the bicentennial year of George Washington’s birth, the dedication ceremony of the Memorial took place. President Herbert Hoover participated in the solemnity. Work on the interior of the Memorial slowed down considerably during the Great Depression and World War II, but after the allied victory American Freemasons again returned their focus to the Memorial and its completion.
Major improvements took place during the 1950s and 1960, including the installation of the statue of George Washington (funded by the Order of DeMolay), the execution of beautiful murals throughout the building by Allyn Cox, and the establishment of numerous galleries and exhibits. In 1999, the large Square and Compasses emblem was added to the front lawn, a visible sign to the Masonic nature of the Memorial.
The Memorial Today
In 2015, the National Park Service named the Memorial a National Historic Landmark, in recognition that it is “the only major unified, fully national initiative of the Freemasons and among the boldest attempts by a private organization to memorialize George Washington.” The mission of the Memorial is to inspire humanity through education to emulate and promote the virtues, character, and vision of George Washington, the Man, the Mason, and Father of our Country.
Today, the Memorial is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week (excluding major holidays). Five public tours are offered daily, giving all visitors an opportunity to learn about George Washington’s enduring legacy and Freemasonry’s role in American life.