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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Anthropology

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Museum of Anthropology

American Material Culture

The Temple that Strengthened the Bond

temple

The outside of the building is Greek classic and is composed of Indiana limestone.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The masonic temple of Allentown served as an iconic location for the aggregate of masonic culture and community events.

A temple was a place for the masons to congregate, reflect on character and morals, and a place for fraternal endeavors. Discussions of building the first masonic temple in Allentown had occurred in 1911. Many years had passed before a faint idea could become a realistic vision. In 1921, Brother Owen Metzger suggested creating a new lodge that would occupy the temple and a year later a charter was granted and the New Temple Lodge was formed.

The planning for the temple was long and tedious. In 1915, it was officially declared that a temple would be built. Before construction could start, in 1921, a committee composed of 3 members of the new lodge ventured through the states, looked at several different masonic temples, and composed a list of suggestions for the design of the new temple, which many declared to be the best temple in the U.S once it was completed.

temple interior

Doric Hall, one of the lodge rooms located inside.

Courtesy of Allentown Masonic Temple.

Support for the new temple was so overwhelming that after four days of a campaign to raise money, $445,535 was raised from various lodges, chapters, and the community in addition to money raised from 20yr bonds. The final bid for the construction of the temple was won by William H. Gangewere and Co. for $542,520. Many people in the valley supported this temple because many of the members were important citizens in the community such as doctors, lawyers, and judges.

Ground was broken on February 3, 1923 and the first stone was laid on July 16, 1923. Importance of this event could be seen in the attendance. More than 1,500 masons and 2,000 individuals from the valley showed up to see the stone laying ceremony. The creation of a temple that could be the home to the various lodges in the area pulled together the brotherhood of the freemasons and made their bond even stronger.

This prominent temple has 49 rooms and 6 stories and can accommodate about 5,000 people. Harmony was a key element for the design which can be attributed to R.G Schmidt, an architect from Chicago who designed many other masonic temples. Within the temple, there are 4 blue lodge rooms that are of Doric, Gothic, Egyptian, and Renaissance architecture. In 1928, General Harry C. Trexler donated an extensive collection of over 2,000 volumes on masonic literature to the temple to preserve the history of masonic lore. In a span of over 80 years, the temple has barely changed. The original structure is intact and only part of the interior has been corrupted from renovations of some of the stenciled designs.

Initially, the temple served as a meeting place for the different lodges in the area. Able to operate under one roof, the masons were able to strengthen their bond amongst their brothers while pursuing their goals as the freemasons. As time progressed, the temple became more open and parades, religious events, and social activities were displayed for the public as the temple was heavily involved in the community. Today, the temple stands as a reflection of past beliefs that many held with high regard.