Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Knoxville, Tennessee Masonic Temple's 95th Year


Nice article on the WBIR-TV website today about the downtown Knoxville, TN Masonic Temple, home to Oriental Lodge No. 453. See "Masonic Temple celebrates 95 years in old McGhee home"

[The Masons] paid $25,000 for the house and lot, according to J.C. Wolfenbarger. He's been a member of the Masons for a long time, since 1949. He says the Masonic Temple Association Incorporated moved into the historic home back in October of 1916. He still remembers his first meeting at the temple. He says they served a good meal that night. "Frog legs, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy."

It seems the old house has always been a place for social gatherings. "In 1877 president Rutherford B. Hayes visited Knoxville on his famous trip through the south to try to reunite the country and heal the wounds of the Civil War," McClung Collection Director Steve Cotham says. "They had this huge party at Colonel McGhee's house, so the president and first lady were entertained in the house. They had this big garden party with paper lanterns lighting up the yard, it was really quite a to do."

It was one of the finest homes in Knoxville, built in 1872 for a young and rich Charles McClung McGhee and his family.

"It was an Italianate two story house designed by Joseph F. Bowman who was one of the rising young architects in the city. So, you have this man who is building a lot of wealth, picking a very young architect from Knoxville to do the designs of the house," Cotham says.

A leading figure in the development of railroads, McGhee spent a lot of time in New York, but Knoxville was his primary residence until he died in his home in 1907.

"What's interesting to me about that building is that the original building is still intact under the building that was built on top of it," Cotham says.

When the Masonic Temple Association bought the home, they added a third floor and large assembly hall, which interestingly enough was built by A.B. Bowman, the younger brother of the home's original designer.


Oriental Lodge has a Facebook page here.

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