by John Kelly, The Washington Post
On July 15, 1922, thousands of men and women gathered on undeveloped land north of Dupont Circle. The tract included the Treaty Oak, said by some to have once sheltered George Washington. Historian Chris Ruli says the Masons had outgrown their existing headquarters. In almost no time, local Masons raised a million dollars for the project. Before choosing Corbett’s design, the committee in charge of building a Masonic temple there looked at several other plans.
For Tower Heights, Corbett tapped artist and architect Hugh Ferriss to create dramatic illustrations of his design. The design ignored the city’s strict height restrictions, so the Masons urged Congress to give them a waiver. In 1929, the stock market crash effectively course-corrected everything, historian Ruli says. Members decided to make do with their 13th Street building. The Masons wanted to find the highest point and build the highest temple in Washington, historian John Ruli says.
The cost of maintaining it would have outstripped the cost of building it, he says. In 1947, the Masons sold the former Dean tract to a syndicate of developers for $915,000. They held on to their 13th Street building until 1982, when they sold it to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.