Friday, September 26, 2014

Scottish Rite of Freemasonry: House of the Temple


Right before the end of our summer break, we snuck in one of our most favorite field trips of the season -- a visit to the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry House of the Temple for the Southern Jurisdiction. How the heck did we find ourselves there? Well after our trip to the Library of Congress, I thought the kids would get a kick out of watching some of the National Treasure movies, which discuss Freemasons at length and their involvement in supposed conspiracies. Not only did the kids love the movies, but they immediately became incredibly interested in Freemasonry and, well, treasure hunting. Then I remembered that we had several important Masonic buildings in the area, including The George Washington Masonic National Memorial. We deeded to keep it slightly low-key to start -- I wasn't exactly sure what the deal would be with touring with kids. So we went to the nearby Scottish Rite Temple.

It turns out that the architect of the House of the Temple, John Russell Pope, was a big fan of Egypt and the entire design incorporates all sorts of Egyptian and mystic elements (Pope later went on to design the National Gallery of Art and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, among other famous buildings). Right up our alley. Kane was about jumping out of his skin to find treasure and popped about the lobby pressing on just about everything that could possibly lead to a secret passageway. He was convinced that a credenza in the corner was the ticket and, in an attempt to get him to stop touching it, I finally tried to break the news gently that there probably wasn't any secret treasure here. As if on cue, the tour guide walked up, pressed a hidden lever in the side, and up popped a t.v. Seriously. Kane couldn't get the smirk off of his face and I couldn't blame him.

After the short video, we were treated to a tour of the entire Temple, museum and library. It was fascinating and our guide was really accommodating to the kids -- entertaining all of their questions and doing her best to answer vaguely Kane's persistent line of questioning about joining the Freemasons. The gist of it is that the Freemasons are a fraternity that has three "degrees" of membership. Once a Freemason reached the highest degree, he may join an appendant body, of which the Scottish Rite is one. There are 33 degrees in the Scottish Rite. Click here for a more informed description on the structure, which is incredibly interesting but no more informative about how one joins exactly.

Our tour ended in the library, where the kids spent some time reading and discussing various mystical and mythical elements with the nice librarian, who also gave us some great recommendations of children's books explaining Freemasonry. We were ready to go, but Cami asked if we had time to do some geocaching -- they were still on their treasure hunting kick -- and we discovered that not only is there a Masonic Geocaching Society (obvi), but there was a geocache hidden right on the House of the Temple's grounds. We found the cache, retrieved a password (!), and took it back inside the Temple to trade it in for real treasure: a Masonic coin bearing the image of Mount Rushmore (a pivotal place in the second National Treasure movie). Our minds were sort of imploding at the "full circleness" of this whole trip.

Architecture, Egypt, treasure hunting, grandness. This place had it all. You just never know what crazy interesting goodness you're going to get into. Admission to the House of the Temple is free and tours are given Monday - Thursday, 9 am - 4 pm. Click here for more visitor information.











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