My visit to Naval Lodge No. 4 – Washington, D.C.
By Gregory J. Knott
Presented at the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 of Allied Masonic Degrees
Held in Homer Lodge No. 199, Homer, Illinois
April 21, 2013
There is nothing more exciting than a trip to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. This city is alive with the history of our past and with those of the present who are making the history of our future. For Freemasons visiting D.C. there are numerous sites to see such as the Scottish Rite House of the Temple, the George Washington National Memorial in Alexandria, VA and the Order of the Eastern Star International Headquarters.
Not only can you visit these magnificent structures, you also have the opportunity to visit any one of number of lodges in the District, which is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, Free Ancient Accepted Masons, who were founded in 1811.
On my recent trip, I visited Naval Lodge No 4. Naval Lodge is actually older than the Grand Lodge of DC, having been founded on May 14, 1805 under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. When the Grand Lodge of DC was established, it came under this jurisdiction.
If you have read Dan Brown’s novel “The Lost Symbol”, you know that Naval Lodge was featured in his book and may also appear in the upcoming movie. Naval Lodge owns its lodge building located at 330 Pennsylvania SE, Washington, DC. This building is very unique and the lodge is located on the 4th floor. The other floors are rented by tenants. To get to the fourth floor, you can either take the elevator or the interesting stairway. The elevator is a small hand operated elevator believed to be the oldest operating elevator in DC. On lodge night one of the brethren is on hand to work the elevator. The stair well is seemingly interwoven in the building and you gaze up, you see the bannisters of each level.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted warmly by the Brethren of Naval Lodge. I rode the historic elevator up to the fourth floor and got off and entered the dining room. The dining room is a simple yet functional arrangement and we had a fine dinner.
With DC being such a transient city, most of the Naval Lodge members are from other parts of the country, this creates real diversity within its membership. The night of my visit, I spoke with Brethren working on Capitol Hill, members of the military, small business owners and federal employees. Naval Lodge like many others is in the midst of a rebirth of sorts. The membership is younger and energetic. There were 9 Fellow-Crafts coming through the degrees at the current moment. One member told me that just a few years ago, Naval Lodge was about to close its doors.
After dinner, we adjourned to the Lodge Room. This room is nothing short of spectacular and is based on an ancient Egyptian theme. It has a high 2 story vaulted ceiling with a starry decked sky in the center, with a singular alter light far overhead. This is surrounded by a series of Egyptian eagles in gold color. The Masters station in the East contains an alcove which is painted with a historical mural in the rear. There are is an obelisk on each side with an arch painted with numerous hieroglyphics on each side. The letter G appears in blue above the Masters chair.
The Senior and Junior Warden’s station are also high ornate, with the SW station being surrounded with 2 pillars with another mural behind the SW chair. In the center of the room is the altar sitting on a mosaic pavement, surrounded by the three lesser lights. Upon the altar rests several books of faith representing the diversity of the membership.
During my visit, Naval Lodge held a Fellowcraft degree with 7 candidates present. In the DC Grand Lodge it is permitted to conduct the degree for as many candidates as you have present. Two altars were used during the obligation.
The DC ritual itself is quite different, yet familiar. During the Fellowcraft obligation, the rods are not used. In opening the lodge the Junior Deacon is seated directly adjacent to the door instead of in front right of the SW. The Marshall is seated next to the Chaplain at the left hand of the WM in the east. The Marshall escorts the Chaplain to the altar for the opening prayer, where the Chaplain kneels at the altar to give prayer.
It was a great visit and the brethren of Naval Lodge should be commended for reinvigorating their lodge membership and keeping this historic lodge moving forward into the next 100 years. Should you find yourself in Washington D.C., Naval Lodge meets the 1st and 3rd Thursday’s at 7:30pm with dinner before at 6:30pm.I wish to thank the Brethren of Naval Lodge for a great visit. While at the meeting I completed a petition for affiliation, which was read at the meeting.