Just a brief sojourn off Route 29 and visitors of the Capital City will be met with the sight of Downtown Trenton’s Masonic Temple. Architecture lovers will no doubt immediately be drawn to the property’s grand pillars, intricate details, and etched carvings that bring the building’s exterior to life. Inside, the hall is just as magnificent, featuring grand chandeliers, stunning artwork, and neoclassical flair hiding around every corner. If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time inside this ornate hall, you will undoubtedly understand why this is one of Trenton’s most iconic spots. Today, let’s take a step inside the past of this beloved building as we explore the history of the Trenton Masonic Temple.
The Masonic Temple has had roots in Trenton from the very beginning. The original Masonic Temple was built directly across the street from the Old Barracks in a small fieldstone building. Erected on the land where the Battle of Trenton was fought, the temple has Trenton’s history built into its very foundation. The modern iteration of the temple was forged many years later, and on May 8th, 1926, the ground was officially broken, and the hall was officially underway.
From the beginning of this project, neoclassical aesthetics were the ethos behind every design choice in this building. As the property was initially founded as a meeting hall for the Freemasons, this design style was intentionally utilized to express this space’s sacred and stately nature. Trenton architect Harry A. Hill designed the building, while Chicago-based designer, Gustav Brand, completed the decorations.
When work on the property was beginning to pick up steam, James Morris, a member of the Freemasons, was granted the contract to construct the temple. When he started work on the temple, he proposed “all labor and materials required for the construction, complete, of the Masonic Temple Building…for the sum of six hundred ten thousand one hundred eleven dollars”. Now $610,111 may not sound like much by today’s terms, but if you were to build this same property today, it would cost over $10.5 million!
Indeed a one of a kind project, Trenton’s Masonic Temple remains the last Grand Lodge in New Jersey. The building was designed to be three stories high, with five meeting lodges and a full basement. Some iconic features of the building include the six Doric columns supporting the exterior, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian elements in the meeting halls, and a Travertine marble inset with brass symbols throughout the property. Combining the architectural inspiration of the past with modern advances, it is no wonder that the Masonic Temple has stood the test of time.
In 2004, the Masonic Grand Lodge of New Jersey took ownership of the property and began a multi-million dollar preservation and restoration initiative to upkeep this regional icon. Recent additions include an accessible ramp, restoration of many featured decorative finishes, and newly upgraded building systems. The Masons have helped support this project by hosting meetings and conferences, allowing members of the public the opportunity to enjoy this incredible space.
A true wonder right in our backyard, the Masonic Lodge harkens to the architectural style of yesteryear while remaining a sleek, timeless facility in the present era. The next time you stroll down Barrack Street, look around because one of Trenton’s most iconic buildings is along your path. To learn more about the Masonic Lodge and keep up with the latest updates, please check out their website here: Trenton Masonic Lodge – Home.