by John P. Sheiry
The Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia is not the grand lodge for the United States, but at times because of its site it has national importance. The election of Brother William McKinley as president in 1896 was the beginning of an extraordinarily visible era for Freemasonry in Washington, when its profile and processions were enhanced by the fact that Masons would occupy the White House for the majority of the next fifty-six years.
Six out of the nine presidents in that period were members of the Craft: William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. So this volume concerns arguably a high water mark in the fraternity’s history. The statue for Albert Pike, the Scottish Rite leader, was authorized by Congress in 1898 and still occupies Judiciary Square.
The Presidents of the United States during these years who were Masons participated frequently in Grand Lodge events during their time in Washington. Each had a particular connection that is worth noting. For example, William McKinley (President 1897-1901) had joined when he saw that Confederates who were Masons and wounded during the Civil War were given friendly treatment by Union surgeons. He became a Capitular Mason and Life Member of Washington Commandery No.1, D.C. on December 23, 1896. From the White House steps, on several occasions, Brother McKinley reviewed Knight Templars on parade. He received Grand Master William Henderson and a Grand Lodge delegation to accept membership in Columbia Lodge made a point to visit his Mother Lodge in Winchester, Virginia. He also participated in the Masonic centennial observances of the death of George Washington, on December 14, 1899.