First Posted: Oct 19, 2012
Jan 20, 2020

Scottish Rite Temple, Washington, DC

Scottish Right Temple/Washington, DC

Wisdom (left/eyes closed) and Power (right/eyes open)

One of the most unusual buildings in the eclectic Sixteenth Street Historic District is the Temple of the Scottish Rite at 1733 16th Street. The building, designed by John Russell Pope who also designed the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial, was constructed between 1911 and 1915. It was built to headquarter the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction of the 33rd Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry. An international fraternal order, the Masons have claimed a number of past Presidents, such as George Washington and Harry Truman, as members. Pope used the tomb of King Mausolus at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, as his model for the Temple. Outside, guarding the temple doors, is a pair of monumental sphinxes that represent wisdom and power. The Temple is laced with symbolism in its design and decor, much of which requires close attention and may not be obvious to non-Masons. In 1931, the building was voted the fifth most beautiful building in the world by a group of members from the Association of American Architects. The library, the first public library in the District of Columbia, contains one of the world's largest collections of materials on and by Scottish poet Robert Burns, who was a Freemason. The Library was opened to the public at the request of Albert Pike who donated his personal collection of books with the stipulation that they be available for use, free of charge, by the general public. One of the most striking monuments in the nation's capital, the imaginative facade of the Temple creates a visual experience worth viewing.

Image: Public Domain
The best-known portrait of Burns, by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787
Born: 25 January 1759; Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: 21 July 1796 (aged 37); Dumfries, Scotland
Occupation: Poet, lyricist, farmer, exciseman
Nationality: Scottish; Citizenship: Kingdom of Great Britain

Image: Public Domain
Albert Pike Younger
Born: December 29, 1809; Boston, Massachusetts
Died: April 2, 1891 (aged 81); Washington, D.C.
Place of burial: Oak Hill Cemetery
Allegiance: United States of America, Confederate States of America
Service/branch: Confederate States Army/Years of service: 1861-1862
Rank: Brigadier General
Battles/wars: American Civil War

The Scottish Rite Temple is located at 1733 16th St., NW, between R and S Sts. Tours are offered on weekdays from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. Appointments must be made to peruse the library's collections. For further information, please call 202/232-3579. Metro stop: Dupont Circle.

For More Information:

House of the Temple

Index: Historical Buildings