Alexandria Market House & City Hall (Masonic Hall), 301 King Street, Alexandria, Independent City, VA
Significance: From the earliest days in Alexandria's history to the present, the Market Square has been the established center of the city. In 1749, two half-acre lots were set aside for a Town Hall-Court House and Market. The building which now stands on lots 42 and 43 was designed in 1871 by Adolph Cluss, the major architect in Washington, D.C. during the Victorian period. The earliest Town Hall-Court House from 1752 was paid for by lottery and was designed by gentlemen builders, members of the local oligarchy, who were later participants in the American Revolution (John Carlyle, Richard Conway, William Ramsay). George Washington, Alexandria's greatest citizen and benefactor, served as a justice in the Fairfax Court, which met in the early Court House; and was a town trustee before the Revolutionary War. A three-story brick town hall was constructed along Royal Street in 1817. Part of this structure, the town clock tower, was designed by Benjamin Latrobe. When the building burned to the ground in 1871, the townspeople raised the money to pay for an exact replica of the Latrobe tower. On Cameron Street, the Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge and its museum contained memorabilia associated most especially with George Washington's part in Alexandria's history. It was here, in the Masonic reception rooms in 1824, that the Marquis de Lafayette was given a splendid and festive welcome to the city of his great friend, General Washington. Adolph Cluss' 1871 design followed closely the configuration of even the earliest structures. The 1871 building was U-shaped, with town offices in the upper floors of the west wing and northwest corner. In the center of the northern facade was the Masonic Lodge; and in the northeast, were the court rooms and court record vaults. On the east side were the police and fire stations. The market stalls were in the lower floors in the west and north and in the center of the courtyard. The twentieth century saw the remodelling of the City Hall, as part of an Urban Renewal Project. The center of the 1871 U-shaped structure has now been filled with offices; and the southern facade is in a modified Colonial Revival style. A plaza has been created to the south of the building and is now the site for market days and important gatherings, such as the meeting of Scottish clans and bagpipers which takes place during Alexandria's annual Christmas Walk. The pristine, brick-covered square gives little hint of the bustling, colorful market days of the past, but has stimulated commercial revitalization in the center of the Old Town.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: FN-238
Survey number: HABS VA-33
Building/structure dates: 1871 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1960 Subsequent Work
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 66000928
Freemasonry's impact on America is more significant than anything that speculation would hold. A movement that emerged from the Reformation, Freemasonry was the widespread and well-connected organization. It may seem strange for liberal principles to coexist with a secretive society but masonry embraced religious toleration and liberty principles, helping to spread them through the American colonies. In a young America, Masonic ideals flourished. In Boston in 1775, Freemasonic officials who were part of a British garrison granted local freemen of color the right to affiliate as Masons. The African Lodge No. 1. was named after the order's founder, Prince Hall, a freed slave. It represented the first black-led abolitionist movement in American history. One of the greatest symbols of Freemasonry, the eye-and-pyramid of the Great Seal of the United States, is still on the back of the dollar bill. The Great Seal's design was created under the direction of Benjamin Franklin (another Freemason), Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Freemasonry principles strengthened America's founding commitment to the individual's pursuit of meaning. Beyond fascination with symbolism and secrecy, this ideal represents Freemasonry's highest contribution to U.S. life. Freemasons rejected a European past in which one overarching authority regulated the exchange of ideas. Washington, a freemason, in a letter to the congregation of a Rhode Island synagogue wrote: "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens..." Freemasonry's most radical idea was the coexistence of different faiths within a single nation.