Formation of The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association
There were several reasons why Masonic bodies finally began to build a memorial. The construction of George Washington Memorial Park sparked renewed Masonic interest in building their own memorial. But another reason was the safety of items owned or used by George Washington ("Washingtoniana") and which were now owned by the Alexandria-Washington lodge. The lodge had suffered several fires over the previous century, and a number of these historic items were destroyed. Constructing a fireproof building which would more safely house these important items was a major factor in pushing the Masonic memorial forward.
In late 1907 or early 1908, Alexandria Commissioner of Revenue Charles H. Callahan (the deputy master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22) proposed to his fellow Masons that, at last, a memorial to George Washington should be built. Callahan proposed the construction of a $10,000 memorial temple. In early 1908, the Alexandria-Washington Lodge formed a "local memorial temple committee" to research the costs and obstacles involved in building a memorial temple. The committee passed a resolution asking Joseph Eggleston, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, to approve the creation of a memorial temple and to assist in creating a national memorial association in which all Masons and Masonic organizations could participate.
On May 7, 1909, the Grand Lodge of Virginia called upon all grand lodges in the United States to meet in Alexandria on February 22, 1910, to discuss plans for organizing a George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association whose purpose would be to construct a memorial temple. President Taft, Representative Champ Clark, Secretary of War Jacob M. Dickinson, and Virginia Governor William Hodges Mann all spoke at the February 22 meeting. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association (GWMNMA) was formed at this meeting, and plans were adopted to raise $500,000 to go toward the cost of construction and another $500,000 for an endowment and maintenance fund. Thomas J. Shryock, Grand Master of Maryland (and a former Treasurer of Maryland and Brigadier General in the Maryland National Guard), was elected president of the GWMNMA.
At this point, the GWMNMA only planned to construct a Masonic temple, not a giant memorial. One floor was to be set aside for use by Masonic lodges, and one or more fireproof, secure rooms in the temple were to be used for the display of Washingtoniana and historical documents owned by the Alexandria-Washington Lodge. By February 1911, the GWMNMA had ruled out all locations except Alexandria as the site for its memorial temple, and fund-raising activities were being planned. A more formal association structure was also adopted at this time. But except for fund-raising activities, little was done in the association's first five years of activity.
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