How GW #143 came to be
Chambersburg was founded in 1725 to 1727 by Benjamin Chambers, at the Junction of the Falling Spring of Conococheague Creek. Because of Indian attacks, a fort was built for protection. With the termination of the French & Indian War, Chambers laid out the town in 1764.
The Grand Lodge received a petition to warrant a Masonic Lodge in Chambersburg on March 4, 1799. More than a year later Lodge #79 was formed with General James Chambers, son of the founder, as Warrant Master. After 54 meetings in five years, Lodge #79 faded into oblivion. A group of men then
petitioned Grand Lodge for a warrant to constitute George Washington Lodge. In 1815, the Grand Lodge acted favorably and issued a warrant to George Washington Lodge #143, which met at various locations in Chambersburg.
The Masonic Temple land was purchased and a contract to build the temple was given in April 15, 1823 to Silas Harry, a bridge builder, for $2,500. Brother Harry also built the King Street Bridge, which is also a work of beauty and is still standing and being used today. The plans for the Temple were drawn by Harry for $5.00. Financial trouble caused the lodge to transfer the building to 3 members and the lodge membership diminished and the Charter was returned to Grand Lodge in 1831.
The Temple was used as a church printing house during the time the Temple was not the property of the Lodge. Lodge meetings were held in various locations in Chambersburg during this time. The old Masonic Temple became available and on February 19, 1860, the Temple was returned to the possession of George Washington Lodge #143 at a cost of $2,000.
In 1864, General Jubal Early of the Confederate forces marched into Chambersburg and demanded $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency or he would burn the town. The ransom was not paid and he burned the town, resulting in the loss of property valued at $1,700.000. The buildings in the half block, in which the Masonic Temple stands, were unharmed.
The 1887 History of Franklin County, referring to the Masonic Temple, states, “When Chambersburg was burned,it was one of the buildings saved, and this was the secret of the other buildings in the same region being spared”.
According to fairly well authenticated legend, a Confederate officer of high rank was riding south on Second Street when he saw the building and recognized its character. He is supposed to have confirmed his belief at one of the neighboring homes and to have chatted briefly with the occupants. After his instructions, guards were then posted to prevent the firing of the Temple and such nearby buildings, which would have endangered it. Having done these good deeds, the stranger rode on. It is unfortunate that all the facts cannot be verified and that the name of this benefactor must forever be unknown.
The building size remained the same until 1899 when the lodge was remodeled and a section was added to the rear. During the first 60 years of the 1900’s the building was unchanged. In the 1960’s, a new section was built on the rear for a new kitchen on the first floor and storage on the second floor. A fire escape was also added. During this period, the lodge was nestled between private residences and the Methodist Church on the northeast corner of Second and Queen Streets. The two residences between the lodge and the Episcopal Church were purchased by the lodge for parking lots. The Methodist Church burned and was removed leaving the present day view of the Temple from Second and Queen Streets.