The Masonic Temple of Boston opens its doors to the public

Inside+the+lodge.

Photo: Karenna Umscheid

Inside the lodge.

By Karenna Umscheid, Staff Writer

The Masonic Temple of Boston, located on the corner of Boylston and Tremont Street, opened its mysterious doors to the public and held an open house on Oct. 15. 

Built in 1902, the current temple is the third building erected on that location. The first two burned down. 

“We learned wood buildings and candles don’t mix!” exclaimed Bill Sohni, former Grand Master and current Freemason.

Though its roots are unclear, Freemasonry is a fraternal organization, stemming from guilds of stonemasons in the 13th century. Members focus on community, history, and philanthropy, aiming to better themselves through religious study — all Freemasons must believe in a supreme being — and brotherhood. No conspiracies, spirits, or grand mysteries lay behind their organization, according to current members. 

“People think Freemasons want to take over the world,” Sohni said. “We don’t even know what we want for dinner.” 

He explained that the sign posted outside, “Secret Entrance on Boylston,” pokes fun at the secrecy surrounding the popular understanding of Masonry. There is no secret entrance; the doors are clear and decorated with their iconic, geometric symbol of the right angle. 

Symbolism is integral to Freemasonry. The two rough stones that decorate lodge meeting rooms represent a man as he goes into Masonry and works toward being a better man. 

Sohni explained that the Massachusetts seal of Masonry features two beavers to represent industry, castles to represent Masonry, an Indigenous person with an arrow pointing down to represent peace, and a section of a compass, signaling Freemasonry’s emphasis on geometry.

The symbol “G” marks many rooms in the temple. According to Sohni, the G is 90 percent for geometry, as the Freemasons claimed to have invented the right angle, and therefore the ability to square a stone. The other 10 percent represents God, as a requirement of being a Freemason is participating in a monotheistic religion. 

“It doesn’t matter what your religion is, you just can’t be an atheist,” Sohni explained. 

Each hallway is lined with portraits of Master Masons, the highest rank of Freemasonry. Every time a new Grand Master mason is elected, each portrait is moved to create space. It’s a three-week process, but the Freemasons take pride in the extensive history of their leadership. 

When a man decides to join the ranks of Masonry, he must spend 30 to 40 minutes for self-reflection in a small, red-hued chamber lined with miniature statues and a desk in the middle. Freemasons begin their journeys here, and aim to make themselves better men, husbands, sons and fathers. 

Kris Crosse, a relatively new Freemason, insisted there were only good, humane forces behind the mysteries of the Masonic temple. 

“There is magic in friendship,” Crosse said. “We fight against the dark forces of loneliness.”

Though the building is intensely historical, filled with realistic portraits, statues, and long, silent hallways, Crosse insists there is nothing supernatural or scary. 

“I’ve done a few overnights which can be spooky, but I’ve never seen any ghosts,” he said. 

There’s an emphasis on philanthropy and passion in each of the smaller chapters within the organization of Freemasonry known as Freemason lodges. The funding for these projects comes from endowments and membership dues. 

A lodge known as the Shriners owns hospitals to support child burn victims, while others support widows or participate in theater. The leader of some lodges wear top hats, the Grand Master wears a tricorn hat, and members of the Scottish Rite dress in historical garb for their various performances. 

Freemasons Robert Lightbody and Fabian Lira laugh about the conspiracies circling their organization. 

“Well, we do run the world!” Lightbody said. 

Lira added to this laughing and said, “He’s an alien, actually!”