George Washington Welcomes You!
April 30, 2013
If you have visited the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library since 1979, you have been greeted by a statue of George Washington (1732-1799) outside the building. As you may know, Washington was a Freemason. Initiated in 1753 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, he became the first Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22, in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1788. That lodge was later named Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 to honor the first President. (For more posts related to George Washington, click here.)
The statue that greets our visitors today is pictured at left. In 1784 the Commonwealth of Virginia commissioned the well-known French artist, Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), to make a sculpture of George Washington. Houdon traveled to Mount Vernon in October 1785, where he took measurements of Washington and made plaster casts of the man's face and limbs (check out this link for more on Houdon's process). In 1791 Houdon completed the work and in 1796 it was installed in the Virginia State House. The statue, which is 81 inches high, combines elements representing aspects of Washington's life. In it he holds the cane of a gentleman, wears a soldier's uniform, stands in front of a farmer's plow, and rests his arm on an ancient Roman "fasces" or bundle of thirteen sticks - signifying his authority and the unity of the thirteen original states. In 1910 the General Assembly of Virginia authorized the Gorman Company to make bronze replicas. The one on view in front of the Museum is one of twenty-two made in the 1910s and 1920s.
Prior to the installation of the Gorman Company statue in front of the Museum in 2006, a statue of Washington by sculptor Donald DeLue (1897-1988) welcomed visitors. Recently, that statue has been reinstalled in the reading room of the Museum's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives (at right). This is a half-size replica of the original statue, which the Grand Lodge of Louisiana commissioned from DeLue in 1959. That nine-foot-tall statue was erected in front of the Public Library in New Orleans. According to DeLue, the museum's sculpture is the "original model from which the large one was made." It depicts Washington wearing his Masonic apron and holding a gavel as he stands next to an column-shaped altar. The statue was a gift of the Stichter family in memory of Wayne E. Stichter, the Grand Lieutenant Commander of the Supreme Council and the Scottish Rite Deputy for Ohio. Brother Stichter had served as Vice President of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library prior to his death in 1977.
Top: George Washington, 1924, from original by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Gorman Company, Providence, Rhode Island, loaned by the Scottish Rite Valley of Columbus, Ohio, EL2004.001. Photograph by David Bohl.
Bottom: George Washington as Master Mason, 1959, Donald DeLue (1897-1988), United States, gift of the Stichter Family, 2010.042.1.