The Official Description of Phoenix Masonic Temple
From the National Registry of Historic Places Application
The Phoenix Masonic Lodge #8 c. 1855 is a two-story Greek Revival building which is situated upon historic St. John's Square. One of three public squares appearing in late eighteenth century Fayetteville, St. John's was the site of the original Phoenix Lodge built between 1793 and 1794. The present structure is its 1850s replacement, and the handsome building now with flanking wings continues to serve as the meeting hall for one of North Carolina's oldest surviving lodges.
The original two-story five-bay frame meeting hall has a hip roof in the Greek Revival tradition. The shape is echoed in the one-story less-than-full facade front porch. Flanking two-bay wings added between 1948 and 1950 increase the facade length to an imposing nine bays. The entire weatherboarded structure is now sheathed with modern siding materials.
Evidence of the vernacular Greek Revival is apparent in door, window, and porch treatment. Supported by rare octagonal columns with corresponding capitals and slender side balustrades, the hip-roof porch shields the central front entrance. Double doors, each with two recessed vertical panels, are flanked by pilasters and framed by three light sidelights and a multi-paned transom.
Windows, most flanked by louvered shutters, have 6/6lights. The hip roof is covered with standing seam tin. The remaining three elevations have features consistent with the front with just a few exceptions. There are only two lower story windows on the south end, whiIe the north end displays a full three bays. A small hip roof dormer rests above the three-bay side. The original main block is five bays across the back just as in the front; however, rear fenestration in the wings does not correspond with that in the front. The left wing has a single door covered by a tiny hood. Other exterior features include a modern fire escape and a complete absence of chimneys.
The first floor interior of the lodge is one large, open, warmly wood-paneled room with smaller reception and/or food preparation rooms in the wings. A staircase running along the front wall leads from the front entrance to the upstairs meeting room, the area of main activity and interest. Although modern appointments have been used to decorate the room, traditional placement and symbolism has been maintained.
According to Masonic legend, the meeting room is set up to resemble Solomon's temple where many master masons were employed for construction work. The five orders of architecture - Ionic, Doric, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite - are represented in the room and used as dictated by the Masonic Catechism. For example, a Corinthian-columned dais with full entablature is situated at the head of the room which contains a seat for the highest ranking Mason, the Master. Chairs for other ranking Masons a step or two lower than that for the Grand Mason are placed in specific locations around the room. Even the black and white tile flooring--a recent replacement which probably just covers the original wide pine boards--is symbolic of the conflict of good and evil.
The purpose of the Masonic Way today, as in the past, is to promote loyalty to the fraternal organization and to mold upstanding citizens who make worthwhile contributions to their homes, churches, and communities. It is founded upon Biblical principles which are given concrete expression in the accoutrements of the Masonic Lodge which stands today.
The Phoenix Masonic Lodge No. 8 is Fayetteville’s oldest and most important fraternal organization and among North Carolina’s oldest surviving lodges. Originating as the Union Lodge which was established by special dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland during the mid-eighteenth century settlement of the Upper Cape Fear River Valley, Phoenix Lodge was in 1793 the eighth in the state to be chartered by the then-new Grand-Lodge of North Carolina. Its first meeting hall was erected 1793-4' at what became known St. John's Square, one of the three town squares in early Fayetteville.
The organization attracted prominent local citizens and operated in a spirit of community activity and service which included advancement of quality education by leasing a floor to the Fayetteville Academy, welcoming the Marquis de Lafayette during his historic 1825 visit, and providing performance space to the local theater group.
Its original meeting hall was replaced on the same site in the 1850s by a frame building which, with its two-story construction, attached front porch supported by octagonal columns, fenestration consisting of 6/6 sash windows and a front entrance framed by sidelights and transom, and hip roof, follows the Greek Revival architectural traditions prevalent in antebellum North Carolina. This building, along with flanking wings added 1948-50, continues to house what is one of Fayetteville’s and North Carolina's earliest and most longstanding social and fraternal organizations.
1. Phoenix Lodge No.8, originating in the mid-eighteenth century as the Union Lodge and officially chartered in 1793, was the eighth in the state to be chartered by the then-new Grand Lodge of North Carolina, making it one of Fayetteville's and the state's oldest longstanding social and fraternal organizations.
2. Phoenix Lodge attracted prominent citizens as members/officers throughout its history, including John Louis Taylor, an early trustee, who went on to become the first Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1818, Robert Strange, a prominent local lawyer, author, judge, and statesman of the nineteenth century, and local merchants, businessmen, and craftsmen such as Thomas Waddill, Henry McLean, George Lauder, and Edwin Glover.
3. The 1850s Masonic Hall, now flanked by wings added 1948-1950, follows the Greek Revival architectural traditions so prevalent in antebellum North Carolina with its two-story frame construction, attached front porch supported by octagonal columns, fenestration consisting of 6/6 sash windows and a front entrance framed by sidelights and a transom, and hip roof.
The history of the the Phoenix Lodge originated in the mid-eighteenth century with the Scotts who settled the Upper Cape Fear River Valley. The Union Lodge was established by special dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in the town later known as Fayetteville even before the Grand Lodge of North Carolina was formed.
In 1787, during a post-Revolutionary War cultural revival which affected the state, the statewide Masonic Order was reorganized at Tarboro. In the following year, the then-formed Grand Lodge met in Fayetteville, at which time the "Union Lodge" was renamed "Phoenix Lodge". Phoenix Lodge was officially chartered in 1793 with a total of sixty members.
Freemasonry, originating in the medieval guilds of practicing masons and organized in England, made headway in North Carolina during the eighteenth century. Fayetteville's Phoenix Lodge was the eighth in the state to be chartered. Its original meeting hall was erected on land deeded on 23 July 1793 for that purpose to John Winslow, James Porterfield, John Louis Taylor, John Sibley; and William Barry Grove, trustees of the Phenix [sic] Lodge, by James Hogg. An adjoining parcel was conveyed to the organization by Patrick MacArthur in 1801, by which time the frame, gable-roof meeting hall had been completed. The collection of parcels became known as St. John's Square, one of three town squares in early Fayetteville.
Membership in the Phoenix Lodge, considered a matter of pride, prestige, invitation, and responsibility, consisted of key local figures. One of the early trustees, John Louis Taylor, became the first chief justice of the State Supreme Court, in 1818. In 1825, members specially welcomed General Lafayette during his visit to Fayetteville. He was entertained at their meeting hall where member Robert Strange, then Captain of the Fayetteville Light Infantry, delivered a welcome address.
Also, many esteemed residents such as Colin McIver, teacher and ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, as well as the aforementioned Robert Strange - known during his lifetime as a prominent area lawyer, judge, author and statesman - were on the membership rolls in 1831. In the 1850s, prosperous local businessmen, merchants, and craftsmen like Thomas Waddill, Henry McLean, George Lauder, and Edwin Glover, also joined the ranks. Records reveal that members valued the association with "good and great men" and were "animated by love and veneration for her [the Lodge's] antiquity.”
Masons were traditionally involved in efforts to encourage and promote good local education and the Phoenix Lodge was no exception. The structural use of Masonic halls for schools was common in early North Carolina, and records reveal the upper part of the local hall was used as a schoolroom by the Fayetteville Academy as early as 1798.
In 1854, the fraternity was invited to join in the ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone for the new Female High School. In addition, the Phoenix Lodge building housed a theater in the early nineteenth century and the Thalian Association, a local group, performed there. Proceeds from the performances went toward the construction of the Green Street Fayetteville Academy.
The meeting hall was replaced by a new one erected on the original foundations in the 1850s. This Greek Revival building, along with flanking two-story wings added 1948-1950, stands today. The original site was left intact and preserved, according to James Hogg's stipulations: that the remainder of the Ground [except that where lodge buildings were situated] shall be forever left open, free of all encumbrances for the benefit of the Neighboring Inhabitants, and the public in general - as well as the beauty and conveniance [sic] of said Lodge.
Consolidation and division marked Phoenix Lodge's history, as is the case with almost any other fraternal, religious, or social organization. Returns show records for several nearby lodges - Durbin Lodge, chartered in 1867 in Blockersville, for example - merging with Fayetteville's main fraternal organization. Phoenix Lodge has, in turn, been instrumental in forming other local lodges, such as Fayetteville Lodge No. 329in the mid-nineteenth century and Creasy Proctor Lodge No. 679 in 1946. In addition, the building has been utilized by other local orders and chapters, such as the Phoenix Chapter No.2, Royal Arch Masons, in the early part of the previous century, the aforementioned Creasy Proctor Lodge, and the Eastern Star which is the women's counterpart of the Masonic Order.