The Franklin Masonic Hall is the oldest public three storied building standing in Franklin, Tennessee and remains one of the only surviving examples of early Gothic Revival architecture in Middle Tennessee.
It has been said the Hall is shrouded in mystery – to a great degree, that is true. While missing records from 1809 to 1865 would reveal much on its creation and creators, the Hall itself speaks; reminding us its history is contained within.
Since its completion in 1826, the Masons of Hiram Lodge 7, the oldest continually occupying fraternity in the state of Tennessee, has occupied the site. Currently, the Hall faces significant structural needs, based in large part to architectural design and additions in 1856, again in 1916, and local economic hardships after the Civil War. The Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation is dedicated to the restoration of this National Historic Landmark. This is why the preservation, conservation and interpretation of the Hall lies at the heart of our mission and everything we do.
One of the only surviving examples of early Gothic architecture in Tennessee, the Hall, c. 1823-1826, is a remarkable witness – blending use of cosmopolitan design and country craftsmanship design in the early 19th century. The Hall’s captivating architecture is a valuable historic resource. One of the oldest Masonic Halls in the United States, it’s a national American treasure – over 90 percent of its historic fabric remains intact – doors, hinges, flooring, nails, windows, bricks, paint, plaster, and foundation are waiting to be rediscovered and engaged.
As was customary, the Hall’s labor force consisted of skilled white carpenters along with many skilled enslaved carpenters and bricklayers. Large orders of lumber, nails, and screws were brought from Nashville to Franklin as early as 1823. Using medieval construction methods, pieces assembled at ground level had Roman numerals placed in the wood, providing sequential instructions for accurate assemblage from the top down. Today, many of the enslaved laborer’s fingerprints can still be seen in the exterior and interior brickwork.
An addition to the rear of the building in 1856, reflects the growth of Franklin -a former pioneer town transformed into a thriving, agricultural, political and social center- and once again in 1916 – modernizing the building with funds given as reparations by the Federal government for damages done to the Hall during the Civil War. Multiple renovations occurred since 1916, yet, historic building materials remain, telling a story that is critical as we begin our work to restore the Hall to its original glory.
The Historic Franklin Masonic Hall is rich in people and their connectivity to place – from the Masons of Hiram Lodge 7 – to perhaps others whose stories are in the shadows – all are interconnected and share a complex past waiting to be told.
A focal point of the story are the Masons – a fraternity organization known as Hiram Lodge 7, who ordered the construction of the Hall in 1823, and today, are the oldest continually occupying lodge in the state of Tennessee.
Our stories ripple from the inside out, stretching beyond the borders of the building, yet always returning to the center of it all – the Hall. From Masons; famous, familiar, or unknown, to the American Indians and the Treaty of Franklin 1830, to enslaved African Americans and later, freedmen and women who labored here, to religious congregations who called the Hall their place of worship, to the horrors of the Civil War and rebuilding during Reconstruction, into the 20th century of new vision, use and future for the Hall, the collective history is ours to know and share.