More than five decades after it closed its doors, the 1964 New York World’s Fair is still firmly lodged in the memories of the millions who witnessed its wonders and in the imaginations of millions more who didn’t attend. Among the many memorable showcases of technology and culture that filled the fair, one should be of particular interest to Freemasons — the Masonic Brotherhood Center. Like many of the exhibits at this World’s Fair, even the 60-foot arch (the familiar square and compasses) took on a distinctive Space Age look. Here is rendering of the center from a postcard of the era:
The center was a joint effort between the Grand Lodge of New York and the Masonic Brotherhood Foundation, and construction began on August 20, 1963.
The text on the back of the postcard read:
This strikingly superb building on Avenue of the Americas features an exhibit hall, lounge, rest rooms and patio. Its unusually interesting exhibits embrace 6 centuries, portraying world famous Masons, their historic achievements and Masonry’s contributions to mankind. ts theme: “Brotherhood, the Foundation of World Peace”. All visitors are welcome.
All visitors are welcome.
For those not fortunate enough to have visited the center, here are some descriptive excerpts from the official guide:
The Masonic Brotherhood Center is a display case of Masonic history and memorabilia going back to medieval times. The Center is sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. It includes a hall for exhibitions, a lounge, office and outside patio.
Dominating the hall is an 11-foot statue, in Masonic regalia, of George Washington, first of 14 American Presidents who have belonged to the brotherhood. Events from his life are portrayed in three-dimensional scenes, and the Bible on which he took the oath of office as President is on display.
Documents on view date back to the 14th Century, when the Masons were the cathedral builders of Europe. Among them is a Plan of Union for the colonies written by Mason Benjamin Franklin in 1754.
There were at least a few notable Masonic events that took place over the course of the fair. In late July 1964, more than 200,000 Shriners converged on Queens to visit the site of the fair for parades and celebrations. On July 24, 1965, nearly 3,000 Masons and members of the Knights of Columbus, together with their families, converged to take part in a day of brotherhood and peace. The groups later toured the Vatican pavilion together.
While most of the buildings and other structures at the World’s Fair were demolished within months of closing, the illuminated “G” from the large fiberglass square and compasses in front of the Masonic Brotherhood Center was moved to the New York Masonic Home campus in Utica, New York, and installed into a smaller sculpture. The Grand Lodge of New York installed a bronze sculpture by artist Donald De Lue, of George Washington in Masonic regalia at the fairgrounds after it closed. It still stands near the soccer fields.
Here are a few views of the center from different angles, as it stood during the World’s Fair: