Every year, the city of Toronto holds the Doors Open festival—a chance for residents to venture into buildings they normally wouldn’t set foot in. The buildings that participate in the festival usually have a unique historical, architectural, or cultural significance and it’s wonderful sneaking a peek at some of these otherwise forbidden gems.
Taking part in this year’s festival was the Toronto West Masonic Temple in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. This might surprise you as the Freemasons are often known as a “secret society.” However, the well-known decline in membership could be one of the reasons why the Masons fling open their gates to the public. That, or they want to show off their amazingly cool space. Either works for me, and I brought my camera along.
The Masons do a real nice job playing host to this sort of event. Along with giving the public access to the main temple, they provide handouts about the building, the masons, and a “self-guided tour” leaflet that explains much of the decor.
(Pictures after the jump.)
What I find most interesting at this Lodge is the number of different masonic groups who share the space. This has always been the case, as the building was constructed after several lodges came together to fund the project. As a masonic temple can be quite elaborate, this makes total sense from a practical standpoint.
Some seals painted on the interior walls of the of the masonic temple.
The customized light bulbs are a highlight of the temple. Look closely, the filament is a square and compass with a “G” in the centre!
The ceiling of the temple is adorned with a wheel of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The masons say this is to remind them of the supreme being who reigns over the heavens.
Of course, this post would not be complete without a glimpse of the famous checkerboard floor that adorns the centre of the temple. The meaning behind this “mosaic pavement” is a secret only Freemasons are privileged to.
As you can see, from the number of people in the background, this stop on Doors Open was quite popular. According to the Prince of Wales Lodge, who hosted the event, over 750 persons stopped by to see the temple.
I totally have a thing for Freemasonry (and Mormons, but that’s a different story). If I could I would totally join a lodge and do all the cool things I imagine Masons to do. But, because I am a woman, I can’t. I’ve asked Masons why this is and they say it’s “tradition.” To me, it sounds like sexism, but hey, it’s a private group and I don’t make the rules.
That said, this doesn’t stop me from contemplating being a mason. I have gone so far as contemplating that wacky movie staple of the thinly-veiled disguise, whereby I slap on a fake mustache, adopt a baritone speaking voice and trick the Freemasons into making me one of them. Sadly, I think my womanly hips and ample bosom would give me away. But the fact that I’ve thought about it tells you how much I would like to do masonry.
Since Masons were abundant at Doors Open, I decided to ask one of the brothers if he knew anything about co-freemasonry, an irregular form of masonry that allows men and women to work together. He mentioned that there were no co-freemasonry groups in Ontario, but that the Eastern Star was co-ed. However, he understood that’s not what I was looking for. Here’s the big news: He did mention that eventually Masonry will have to admit women. He said that it was the “old guard” keeping women out, but that things would have to change eventually. In other words, there’s hope for me yet!}