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M.W. Robert F. Drechsler, 33
Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Washington, DC

Contributing to the restoration of the Washington Monument is an unparalleled opportunity for Freemasons to celebrate our Craft’s foremost Brother and the Masonic principles that guided his life.

In 1997, the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, united with Freemasons everywhere, is proud to carry on a Masonic tradition regarding the Washington Monument that began nearly 150 years ago when, on July 4, 1848, M.W. Benjamin B. French, 33, Grand Master, Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, laid the cornerstone of the Monument in a Masonic ceremony attended by representatives and members of the Grand Lodges of Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas. Since that time, some 250 Masonic Lodges have contributed to the building of the Monument which contains 22 Masonic memorial stones contributed by 14 Grand Lodges and 8 individual Lodges. In addition, many other Masonic Orders including the Scottish Rite, Royal Arch, and Knights Templar have contributed to the construction of the Monument. (See “Masonic Stones of the Washington Monument.”)

Now, however, there is greater need than ever for Masonry’s support of this great memorial to the Father of Our Country. The National Park Service recently launched a program, beginning in 1997 and ending in 2000, to raise the estimated $5,000,000 needed to restore the Monument. Although the structure has withstood years of weathering and aging-not to mention some 2,500 visitors each day-it now requires extensive restoration. This will involve erecting a scaffold for the entire 555-foot, 5 1/8 inch height of the Monument; pointing up 64,000 linear feet of exterior joints and 39,000 linear feet of interior joints; sealing 500 linear feet of exterior and interior stone cracks; repairing 1,000 square feet of chipped or patched stone; and cleaning 59,000 square feet of interior wall surface. In addition, the plan provides for the preservation, restoration, and illumination of 192 interior commemorative stones, the resealing of observation windows and aircraft warning lights, and the improvement of the Monument’s elevator so that the memorial stones can be viewed by at least some passengers, those located nearer the elevator’s windows, as the elevator ascends or descends.

Toward that goal, the National Park Foundation has announced, as follows, a fundraising program directed toward Freemasons: “The Foundation requests that each of the 51 Grand Lodges throughout the United States set a goal to raise $10,000 to mark the 150th anniversary [July 4, 1998] of the laying of the Monument’s cornerstone. Given that the Freemasons have a long tradition of support for the Washington Monument-from the laying of the cornerstone, to fundraising and providing labor for its construction-the Foundation hopes that the Masons will continue this legacy by participating in the restoration of the world’s tallest free-standing masonry structure. Just as the Freemasons were instrumental in building the Monument, now they have an opportunity to preserve and protect it for generations to come.”

At the Grand Masters Conference held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, February 14-20, 1997, an appeal was made to all the Grand Lodges to meet this challenge and to use the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia as their liaison with the National Park Foundation. The Masonic family of the District of Columbia was in the vanguard of national fraternal contributions to the Monument’s initial construction. The same is true today. M.W. William T. Jenkins, 33, President of the Masonic Foundation of D.C., reports that as of April 1997, Lodges holden to the Grand Lodge and their individual Craft Lodge members have made 162 donations totalling $7,125. The Grand Lodge of D.C.’s goal of $10,000, as suggested by the National Park Foundation, is in sight, and we expect to attain it within the year.

Considering that Robert Mills, the architect of the Monument, was a Mason and that the Fraternity has supported the Monument from its inception, it is appropriate that Masonry should have a significant role in current restoration efforts. To receive a packet of information and unite with Masons everywhere in this great endeavor, write to the address at the end of this article. Here is an unparalleled opportunity for Freemasons to celebrate our Craft’s foremost Brother, George Washington, by helping to preserve the monument that symbolizes his integrity and leadership.

Contributions may be sent, by the end of summer if possible, payable to: National Park Foundation, 1101 17th Street, NW, Suite 1102, Washington, DC 20036-4704. Be sure to note on the check that it is for “Restoration of Washington Monument” and include your name and address or the name and address of the Lodge or Masonic organization making the contribution. All Masonic-related contributions will be tallied as a historical record of Masonic support for this national project. Also, all contributors will receive a letter of thanks from the National Park Foundation.