100 Years: Alexandria Celebrates George Washington Masonic National Memorial (PHOTOS)
ALEXANDRIA, VA – It rises majestically over Alexandria. The edifice serves as the backdrop for fabulous views, quiet reflective moments, and romantic engagement proposals. It is visited by residents and visitors alike on a daily basis. And this year, Alexandria is celebrating the iconic George Washington Masonic National Memorial’s (aka the Masonic Temple) 100th anniversary!
To honor the occasion, Alexandria’s annual George Washington Day parade will pay tribute to this historic landmark. This year Alexandria’s George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee in concert with Memorial representatives adjusted the parade’s traditional route so that it will finish in front of the Memorial to pay homage to the 1923 parade in which 10,000 Masons marched to the Memorial for its cornerstone dedication.
The parade will be held on February 20, 2023 and over 2,000 Masons from across the country will walk in the parade. While the official parade route will end in front of the Hilton at the corner of King St. and Cameron St., the participating Masons will continue their march under the train/Metro bridge and up to the front steps of the Memorial. There they will carry out a ceremonial centennial reenactment of the original 1923 cornerstone dedication. The parade is scheduled to begin at 1:00 pm, with the reenactment beginning around 3:30 pm and lasting for approximately an hour. The public is encouraged to attend the reenactment which will be carried out by the Masonic Grand Lodge of Virginia. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, and George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Director Douglas Bradburn will provide remarks. (This type of cornerstone dedication has been performed on virtually every significant building around the world, including the U.S. Capitol.) For those interested, visitors can purchase a limited-edition Cornerstone Centennial Ashlar which is a 2 ½ inch cube of New Hampshire pink granite cut from the original stone of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Only 200 will be produced. Please see the Memorial’s website for more information.
On February 22, 1910, Masonic leaders gathered in Alexandria to formalize an association that would conceptualize, build and maintain “a suitable memorial temple to honor George Washington, the Mason” according to Shawn Eyer, Director of Education at the Memorial. According to the Memorial’s website, “The site was selected because it followed the ancient tradition for the location of temples on hilltops or mountains. It was also located on the land with which George Washington was familiar, as he spent a great deal of time in Alexandria and its environs.”
The group hired New York-based architect Harvey Wiley Corbett to design the Memorial. Corbett was part of the Associated Architects of Rockefeller Center who designed 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Ground was broken in 1922 and the cornerstone for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1923. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Supreme Court Justice (as well as former U.S. President) William H. Taft attended the dedication.
The Masonic fraternity, through individual and group donations, funded the entire construction of the Memorial, and the exterior of the building was completed in 1932. According to Eyer, construction of the interior slowed during the Great Depression and World War II, and the statue of George Washington which stands in the Memorial’s Great Hall was not dedicated until 1950. This dedication was attended by President Truman, a past Grand Master of the Missouri Masons. The galleries and interior were finally completed during the 1950’s and 60’s. Eyer noted, “The planners could not have expected the country’s economic and geopolitical struggles to have affected the Memorial’s construction timeline as much as they did.” The building itself witnessed immense history from cornerstone to completion, with cars barely in production at its inception to space exploration upon its completion. According to Eyer, the Memorial greatly raised the level of tourist interest in Alexandria.
Over the years, the Memorial was used as the backdrop for movies such as “J. Edgar” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “National Treasure II; Book of Secrets” starring Nicholas Cage, and “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman. In “Jackie”, the steps of the Memorial were used in the scene where John F. Kennedy Jr. famously saluted his father as the funeral procession passed by him.
Plan a Visit
Visit the George Washington Masonic National Memorial today at 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22301, 703-683-2007, for an inspiring and memorable experience.
Hours of Operation
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (closed on major holidays)
Tours times: 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., & 3:30 p.m.
Advance reservations are required
Admission is $20 per person. Photo ID required. Children aged 12 and under are admitted to the Memorial for free, and must be accompanied by an adult.
Daytime parking is free on a first-come, first-served basis. Up to 200 parking spaces are available.
Virtual Tour Option: Please use the Virtual Tour to see what the Memorial has to offer.
The Memorial is open to the public and operates as a museum. The facility can also be rented by the public for events such as weddings and other ceremonies.