How Waco 92 Made Waco the Capital of Texas Masonry
The first time a Grand Lodge session was held in Waco was 1857. Waco 92 members such as the legendary Joseph Speight and early Texas doctor William Oakes were on the hosting committee and the event was so successful that it became a lodge goal to bring the Grand Lodge back to town. No doubt one of the things that had bolstered our case for hosting the session that year was our creation of the Waco Masonic Institute, a college for men and women that would evolve over the years and eventually became TCU, now located in Fort Worth. Another major factor must have been the presence of the aforementioned Brother Speight, who was Grand Master of Mississippi prior to moving to Waco and becoming Master of Waco 92. Speight mentored such Texas masonic legends as John B. Jones and was a major influence in regularizing the esoteric work based on how it had been done in Mississippi.
building down on the Square was nationally famous and our members managed to pool together a modern day equivalent of $300,000 and a program that carefully detailed how Waco would make the most sense geographically and economically as the headquarters for Texas Masonry. Worshipful Master Strayhorn appointed Brother Jesse McLendon as delegate to nominate Waco at the Grand Lodge special session.
At our stated meeting on December 20 of 1901, Brother McLendon reported that Waco 92 had succeeded and our town would be the new home of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Our records suggest the brethren assembled responded with “wild acclaim.”
Our own Brother William Winthrop Seley(founder of the Red Cross in Texas) donated land at the corner of Franklin and 6th street where the first Grand Lodge Temple in Waco was erected. That building was designed on commission from Waco 92 by a Past Master of Tannehill Lodge #52, James Flanders. We have several photos of that building but the most interesting one shows it right after completion(photo shown below). On the 6th street side of the building, Brothers M.T. Bell and John Strayhorn sit in Bell’s automobile at the curb. Bell was a well-known car enthusiast and participated in many central Texas races in those early years. On the Franklin Avenue side, there is Brother W.W. Seley sitting in his own car. The two vehicles were, at the time, the only cars owned in McLennan County. The Grand Lodge moved to that building from Houston officially on December 6, 1904.
About the Temple
Made to resemble King Solomon’s Temple, the building is 249 feet and 4 inches wide by 226 feet and 8 inches long with a maximum height of 88 feet. Three, five, and seven steps were made to reach the main doorway. They pass between the two large pillars for which the building is often recognized. These pillars have a circumference of 20.612 feet and a diameter of 6.561 feet. Their overall height is measured at 39.506 feet. The globes atop them are 8.583 feet in diameter.
The left globe is Terrestrial with the Ecliptic set horizontally. The right is Celestial with the celestial bodies oriented appropriately to the Terrestrial globe. In this way, the right globe is set to match what one would see if one were looking at it from the left globe. For example, the Zodiacal Belt is horizontal because it follows the Ecliptic. The Sun is to the right and the Moon faces Columbus Avenue. The Moon is a half moon.
The main doorway is framed with various masonic symbols. Its height is 61 feet and its width is 27 feet. The door itself is 14 feet, 4 inches wide and 46 feet tall. The doors are stainless steel, framed with bronzes and bear the brazen seal of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Above them is a stained glass window that is 33 feet high. Bronze framing separate the 21 panels of the window it depicts the meeting that happened in March, 1835 at the Masonic Oak in Brazoria. The doorway has two 77 feet high towers on each side.
At the bottom of each tower is a sculptured frieze. Each one is 35.5 feet long and 6 feet, 8 inches tall. The left frieze shows fifteen ancient craftsmen cutting, squaring, numbering, transporting, and setting the stones used in King Solomon’s Temple. The right shows fifteen ancient craftsmen felling, hewing, transporting, and setting the lumber that was used in the Temple.
Carved in the granite pavement of the Temple Porch is an inscription which reads:
IN GRATEFUL APPRECIATION OF THE GENEROUS CONTRIBUTION MADE BY THE MASTER MASONS OF WACO FOR THE SITE OF THIS MEMORIAL GRAND LODGE TEMPLE
This accounts for the exterior of the structure. As marvelous as it is, one cannot imagine the magnificence of its interior. From the large stained glass window above the Memorial Room(this was relocated from the original Temple at 6th and Franklin) to the wide-ranging contents of Library and Museum, an entire day in the Grand Lodge could merely scratch the surface of seeing its wondrous collection and the beautiful architecture that holds it.
Recently, much of the building has been undergoing renovations. For that reason, it is currently closed to the public but it is expected to re-open in February of 2017 and all are invited to come and see the Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum.